MANILA, Philippines — Department of Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar has inhibited from the agency’s review and renegotiation of water concession agreements between the government and firms Maynilad and Manila Water.
In a memorandum dated Friday, Villar said she is inhibiting “to eliminate any cloud of doubt on the impartiality of the department’s review and renegotiation of the water concession agreements with the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System that my affinity to the owners of PrimeWater Infrastructure Corp. has brought.”
Villar is the wife of Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, son of businessman Manny Villar and Sen. Cynthia Villar, who own the water company.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said he has told the undersecretary to inhibit from the agency’s review.
“I requested Usec. Villar to inhibit herself na lang to dispel suspicions that the DOJ contract review may not be completely objective due to an alleged possible conflict of interest,” Guevarra said.
He added: “It’s unfair to Usec. Villar who has always acted with [professionalism] but the circumstances call for it. One thing I can say, any good lawyer will come to the same findings and conclusion.”
News website Politiko on Wednesday pointed out that Villar is the undersecretary in charge of the DOJ legal staff, Office of the Solicitor General and Office of the Government Corporate Counsel—all involved in reviewing the concession deals the government signed with Maynilad and Manila Water in 1997.
During his initial tirade against the two water firms, Duterte mentioned there were people like Villar who could handle the water distibution. — Gaea Katreena Cabico
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