By Macon Araneta

Threatening investors with imprisonment should they refuse to accept a government-imposed contract is criminal behavior under the Revised Penal Code, stressed Sen. Francis Pangilinan. 

“Coming as it does from the highest office of the land sends the terrible signal to all investors whether foreign or local that they too can be imprisoned without bail should they disagree with the powers that be,” said Pangilinan, also president of the Liberal Party.

The opposition leader also urged  the country’s economic team led by Sec. Dominguez to manage and correct the harm inflicted on the country’s investment climate brought about by such reckless and irresponsible public pronouncements.

He warned that a bleak investment climate makes for a bleak situation on investments as well as jobs creation that come with it..

He cited the statement of Socio-economic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia, who said 2.3 million Filipinos remain jobless and another 5.9 million under-employed.

“We should be part of the solution to address joblessness in the country, not part of the problem,” further stated Pangilinan.

The Senator issued the statements in the wake of threats by President Rodrigo Duterte that appropriate charges  would be filed against private water firms —  Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. — if they will not accept the  new contracts sans the onerous provisions he offered them.

Duterte said the filing of charges will be on top of the government’s  take-over of the water distribution services.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement that should both companies refuse to accept the new contracts, the President will order the cancellation of the present water contracts. 

He said the President will also give an order to nationalize the water services in their respective areas of operation.

The President, Panelo also said, will also prosecute all those involved directly or indirectly in the issue that the presidential spokesperson  described as constitutionally flawed contracts that violated the provisions of the anti-graft law.

Earlier Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go believes the two water firms should accept  the new contracts without the onerous provisions.

He guaranteed what the President only wants to protect the best interest of every Filipino in the new contract.

“We want that in the contract that the interest of each Filipino should be the (primary) concern because every hard-earned peso used to pay their water bill  is important to them  like water,” stressed Go. 

“If (the water concessionaires) refuse, the President will nationalize the  water concession and ensure that the government can deliver quality services,” Go said.

Go also echoed the sentiments of the President against the onerous provisions found in the existing contracts of the two water companies with the government. 

The new contracts are yet to be reviewed by the water companies but Go reiterated that Maynilad and Manila Water will still not be off the hook even if they agree to the new contracts.

Maynilad and Manila Water are currently on the 25-year concession deals signed in 1997 with a total of 16 million customers.

Go lambasted the two water companies and even delivered a privilege speech at the Senate plenary session last December.  

“Water is essential to life. It is very basic to our existence. It cannot be left alone to business corporations to decide. Their primary objective is to earn profit. I have nothing against private business per se. But I have everything against bad business practices,” Go said.