Duterte threatens military takeover of Metro Manila water distribution

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 13 2019 04:26 PM | Updated as of Dec 13 2019 05:06 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte. File

MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday threatened of a military takeover of the water distribution system in the Philippine capital as he warned concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water to refrain from using water shortage as a scare tactic.

Duterte warned the 2 water distributors not to force his hand or, he said, he might also suspend the writ of habeas corpus for the "economic saboteurs."

"Huwag mo akong laruan na takut-takutin ninyo ako na sige, magsibat kami, bahala wala kayong tubig. I will order the Armed Forces to operate your… Sige, sundalo, take over kayo," he said during the birthday party of former Senate President Manny Villar in Las Piñas City.

(Don't scare me with a water shortage. I will order the Armed Forces, the soldiers to take over.)

The President said he came up with the idea on Wednesday night during a gathering of the Presidential Security Group.

“Then I will declare the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus but only against economic saboteurs,” Duterte said.

Last week, Duterte threatened to file "economic sabotage" and economic plunder charges against the 2 water distributors as he claimed that Filipinos are “milked by billions” because of their onerous water concession contracts with the government.

Following Duterte's tirades and threats, both the Pangilinan-led Maynilad and Ayala-owned Manila Water said they would no longer collect P10.8 billion in compensation a Singapore-based arbitration court had ordered the Philippine government to pay the distributors. 

“'Pag niloko mo ako, kapag niloko mo ang Pilipino (If you trick me, trick the Filipinos), I will suspend the writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you," Duterte said.

"Gusto kong makita ang mga bilyonaryo na nakakulong," he added.

(I want to see billionaires in jail.)

Insisting that the water concession contracts were onerous, Duterte said the 2 water firms were more than a "big fish," and are "crocodiles."

"Sabi ko, kita mo takot ang mga yawa. Offer dito, we will not collect...I’ll just prepare the charges," Duterte said.

(Look at them, they're now scared, offering to drop their claims...I'll just prepare the charges.)

“Sabi niyo, all these years, how many presidents, where’s the big fish? Oh ito buwaya na ito p*t*ng*n*ng ito (this is a crocodile)," he added.

Duterte earlier warned that he would "expropriate everything" from the 2 water distributors unless he is satisfied with their explanation of their concession agreement.