Andanar branded as “baseless” and “erroneous” the Nikkei Asian Review report on cronyism under Mr. Duterte. Andanar branded as “baseless” and “erroneous” the Nikkei Asian Review report on cronyism under Mr. Duterte. tribune.net.ph

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Any claims and attacks being made in relation to this matter are from the opposition and by interest groups that are against the socio-economic policies and reforms by this administration.

As President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out against oligarchy and the domination by rich businessmen of the country’s utility businesses particularly water services, an article in a popular Asian magazine accused him of cronyism by allegedly favoring business associates.

In a situation briefing he presided over in Legazpi City in the aftermath of powerful typhoon “Tisoy,” the Chief Executive ordered the filing of economic sabotage and plunder cases against Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. owners and legal counsel, and all those involved in the crafting of the deals, including agents and lawyers of the government.

Contrary to the article, “having connections and relations with officials in this administration doesn’t entitle any individual or any business entity to privileges that would allow them to bypass government policies and legal procedures,” Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said yesterday.

The Palace official branded as “baseless” and “erroneous” the report that came out in Nikkei Asian Review about supposed cronyism under Mr. Duterte.

Andanar attributed the report’s allegations as part of an offensive by the opponents of the President and business interests affected by his campaign against business monopoly.

“Any claims and attacks being made in relation to this matter are from the opposition and by interest groups that are against the socio-economic policies and reforms by this administration. Not only are these baseless assertions erroneous, but they are also highly deplorable,” he added.

In a statement, Andanar denied that Duterte and his administration are practicing partiality in awarding jobs and other advantages to friends or trusted colleagues.

He cited the Duterte administration’s refusal to ingratiate itself with Manila Water and Maynilad after learning that their “onerous” deals with the government have resulted to “unfavorable repercussions not only to the government but also to Filipino consumers.”

”The Duterte administration has constantly and blatantly condemned cronyism in our society,” the PCOO chief said.

Wild allegations

The report, which appeared in Nikkei’s 4 December issue, indicated that Mr. Duterte promised to “destroy the Philippine’s elite” because he “chose his own.”

The report, titled “Crony capital: How Duterte embraced the oligarchs,” noted that during the presidential campaign, Duterte took aim at the “corruption and excesses of wealth-hoarding families” like the Ongpin clan.

The report, however, claimed that Duterte’s three years in office showed that the systemic transformation has turned out to be “more like a personal vendetta.”

“One prominent tycoon who spoke on condition of anonymity described the takedown of Roberto Ongpin as ultimately insignificant — ‘a grain of sand,’” Aurora Almendral’s article read.

”Rather than sending a clear message to the country’s business oligarchs, the episode left many believing that Duterte has simply opened the door to a new wave of businesspeople and loyalists, who have been given access to political power and lucrative government contracts,” it added.

Competitive climate

Andanar debunked the report, stressing that Duterte has been persistently lashing out at oligarchs “who have promoted corruption, provided bribes to government officials in public-private transactions, and eked out favors through their political connections.” “These are actions the President vowed never to tolerate,” he said.

On Tuesday, Duterte directed the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General to draft a new water concession contract that is “favorable to the State and the Filipino people.”

To further refute the alleged cronyism in the country, Andanar stressed the current administration’s commitment to enforcing rules and regulations that will make the country’s business climate “competitive.” He said the government has been implementing “fair and impartial” procedures for private companies that want to invest in government infrastructure and development projects.

Level field

”We will continue to be tough on regulating the business sector as we advocate for a competitive economic climate so that the cronyism which has already allowed our government and society to be mired in corruption and abuse for decades will no longer prosper,” he said.

”In fact, we have continuously strengthened measures and undertaken steps along the way that would allow for fair and impartial procedures on public-private partnerships,” Andanar added.

He also noted that the Executive Order (EO) on the Freedom of Information (FoI) gives anyone access to government transactions for “better transparency on project biddings as well as on the allocation and usage of the people’s money.”

Duterte on 24 July 2016 signed EO 2 on FoI to make documents and records in the Executive branch available for public scrutiny.

”This (EO on FoI) undermines any form of possible corruption and bribery as we bring out in the open our transactions for public scrutiny,” the communications chief said.

Andanar said the Duterte government has also advocated for an equitable application of the law to all business entities, regardless of origin, through the strengthening of the Philippine Competition Commission, Anti-Red Tape Authority and National Economic Development Authority’s functions.

He said such a move would “undermine monopolies and duopolies.”

The PCOO Secretary also took note of the government’s plan to amend the 1987 Constitution on business ownership, as well as to open up the Philippine economy to more foreign investments.

”Our Comprehensive Tax Reform Program furthers this commitment as we continuously promote the reduction of personal and corporate income tax to promote a competitive and inclusive business climate while curtailing the tax incentives that have been abused by large corporations and oligarchs for decades,” he added.

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