Duterte shouldn’t make abogados as fall guys in water deal review – Palabrica

Former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Raul Palabrica is worried that government lawyers will take the fall for President Rodrigo Duterte’s review of allegedly onerous provisions in the 1997 concession contracts signed by Manila Water and Maynilad.

“There is a strong possibility that, in the review of government contracts with private parties, the government lawyers involved in them may be blamed for the supposedly onerous provisions,” said Palabrica in his Inquirer column.

“Making scapegoats out of those lawyers would be grossly unfair. When a lawyer negotiates a contract on behalf of a government office or private entity, he or she acts as an agent of the latter. It is the principal, not the lawyer, who calls the shots on what are or what are not acceptable in a contract,” added the University of the Philippines School of Law graduate and Upsilon Sigma Phi member.

Duterte want all abogados who played a role in crafting the plunder-worthy provisions in the agreements to be punished.

“Gusto ko harap ang abugado ng gobyerno na p***** i**** naggawa nitong kontratang ito…Because they were selling this country down the drain. Ginawa talaga nila tayong… Ma-disbar ka niyan,” said Duterte in a speech.

Based on records, lawyer Eusebio Tan of Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW) lead advisor of the privatization of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System under the Ramos administration. The top officials who led the sale were Gregorio Vigilar, then public works secretary and Dr. Angel Lazaro, then MWSS administrator.

But Palabrica maintained that the buck should stop with the top brass and not responsibility for the final contract.

“So if anything is found ‘wrong’ in a contract, the head of the agency or private entity should be held responsible and accountable for it,” Palabrica said.

Palabrica said that while a periodic review was “good management practice”, determining “whether or not a provision in a contract is onerous is a matter of opinion.”

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