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Enrile, Trillanes face off over water deals

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Tuesday clashed with his nemesis, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, after the latter, in a privilege speech, called for an investigation into the practice of two private water concessionaires to pass their income taxes on to consumers. While Trillanes called for a probe, Enrile said the water concessionaires, Maynilad Water Services and Manila Water Co. were merely carrying out measures allowed by their contracts with the government. Trillanes accused Enrile of lawyering for the two companies, while Enrile challenged Trillanes to haul the two concessionaires to court. “Why don’t you take the initiative of bringing a case before a court so that it can be done, but not in this house of Congress because Congress is powerless to intervene in matters of contractual agreement,” Enrile told Trillanes. “We are prohibited from impairing the obligations of contract.” Trillanes shot back: “Well, that is the opinion of the senator from Cagayan. Just tell the public right now that he cannot do anything about it—that both Maynilad and Manila Water can just pass on anything under the sun, and pass it on to our consumers—that’s his opinion, that’s not mine. [This is] precisely why we need this inquiry. All I’m asking for is an inquiry,” said Trillanes. Trillanes said the inquiry would also enable the two private companies to clear their names. “Nobody knows in this chamber right now the contents of the concession agreement, which now necessitates an inquiry so that we can check if what the gentleman from Cagayan is saying right now is true or not, unless he’s going to enter his appearance as a counsel fror these water concessionaires,” he said. Enrile said if he were not a member of Congress, he would handle the case, then turned to Trillanes and said: “I will win it against you in the courtroom.” Refusing to answer Enrile, Trillanes warded off any further questions, saying these were off the main topic of his privilege speech, which dealt with the passing of corporate taxes to the customers of the two water concessionaires. Pressed by Enrile to answer where the two water concessionaires drew their right to distribute water, Trillanes said: “The issue before us is whether they are authorized to pass on to the consumers their corporate income taxes.” At another point, Trillanes simply dismissed a question from Enrile as “totally irrelevant.” Enrile said he was asking questions because he wanted to know whether the franchise of the state-owned Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System allowed it to enter into a contract with the two concessionaires and include a provision in their contract that they can pass on their income tax to the water consumers. Enrile and Trillanes have clashed before over a variety of issues. When Enrile was still Senate president, Trillanes said he would work continually to have him unseated. After the senatorial races in May gave the administration a majority in the Senate, Enrile resigned as Senate president and was replaced by administration ally Franklin Drilon.  
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