SENATE Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and his erstwhile nemesis, Sen. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes on Tuesday faced off once again in the Upper Chamber’s plenary.
This after Enrile questioned Trillanes’ intention of calling for a Senate inquiry into the alleged act of water concessionaires of passing on their corporate income taxes and other expenses to consumers.
During his privilege speech on Tuesday, Trillanes asked the Senate to investigate what he described as the “illegal act” of two water concessionaires of passing their income tax to consumers.
“There is an urgent and imperative need to conduct an investigation into this very important matter, affecting as it does millions of Filipino consumers,” said Trillanes adding that this is necessary to enact remedial legislation.
But aid of legislation, in his interpolation, told Trillanes that his call for inquiry was not merely in aid of legislation since it will be reviewing the concessionaire’s agreements with the Manila Water Sewerage System (MWSS).
“Your inquiry is not an aid of legislation,” said Enrile adding that the Senate cannot abrogate contractural agreements entered into by corporations.
Instead of calling for a Senate probe, Enrile suggested that Trillanes should initiate in filing a case against the concessionaires–Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services.
“Why can you take an initiative to take the case before the court? Congress is powerless to intervene in matters of contractual agreement because we are prohibited from intervening on abrogation of contracts,” said Enrile.
Trillanes rebutted that all he wanted is for the Senate to conduct an inquiry adding that it is also part of the oversight functions of the Upper Chamber.
“For once and for all it will also clarify whether or not the two water concessionaires are acting within the bounds of the law and their respective concession agreements with the MWSS,” he added.
He further explained that the investigation is made more imperative because of the fact that the MWSS has reportedly rescinded the resolution allowing these water utilities to pass on their corporate income taxes to consumers.
The MWSS has also issued a new resolution superseding the former, which is currently pending approval and confirmation of the MWSS Board of Trustees.
According to consumer advocacy groups, MWSS issued in 2004, Resolution No. 04-006-CA which permitted the concessionaires to transfer the burden of paying their corporate income taxes to their customers.
It was also revealed that from 2008 to 2012, consumers have been shouldering about P 1.5 Billion and P1.6 Billion annually in taxes for Manila Water Company, Inc. and Maynilad Water Services, respectively, over the past five years or some 15.3 Billion Pesos in total.
“Apart from their corporate income taxes, the water concessionaires have also allegedly passed on other charges to consumers, including their travel and entertainment expenses, advertisements, donations, training expenses and even expenses for flowers,” Trillanes said.
Enrile and Trillanes’ first verbal tussle happened when they traded accusations over a bill seeking to divide Camarines Sur province and the latter’s role as special envoy of the Philippines in the Scarborough Shoal dispute with China.