Another Ayala venture could be in the crosshairs of President Rodrigo Duterte’s offensive against corporate giants, which he has accused of defrauding the government through onerous deals.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a radio interview Sunday the Ayala Technohub might also be investigated for paying low rent for the government’s land at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, citing a research he said he read online.
The Ayala Land website describes the 20-hectare Ayala Technohub on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, as a “low-density complex” ideal for business process outsourcing firms jointly developed by Ayala Land and UP.
The place is part of the vast UP Diliman campus.
Panelo said it appears that the area “is being rented by the Ayalas for less than P20 per square meter… for 25 years. If that were true, they (Ayala) [have] a big problem.”
The President has confronted Ayala Corp. over its water distribution contract for Metro Manila, which he says was grossly disadvantageous to the government.
Ayala Corp. owns the controlling stock in Manila Water Co. Inc., one of the two water concessionaires in Metro Manila. The other, Maynilad Water Services Inc. is a venture of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., the conglomerate of tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan.
Last Friday, Duterte said he would next review the Manila Light Rail Transit (LRT) contract, where the Ayala family and a corporation owned by Pangilinan are also involved.
Duterte said he wanted to find out how the two companies gained big-ticket contracts with the government. In 2015, the consortium of Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific took over the operation of LRT Line 1, the first elevated commuter train in Metro Manila that stretches from the Muñoz station in Quezon City to Baclaran in Pasay City.
The Light Rail Manila Consortium also won the award to build, operate and maintain the P64.9-billion LRT Line 1 extension project to Cavite.
“Basta lahat ng may anomaliya, titignan ng gobyerno (The government will look into all anomalies),” Panelo said.
He clarified Duterte’s statement in which he would arrest the owners of Maynilad and Manila Water if they do not sign the new contract that the government is drafting.
“Ang ibig sabihin n iPresidente, i-de-demanda ‘yung mga dapat i-demanda. At kung makakita ng probable cause, oh eh ‘di, ang mga hukuman pwedeng mag-issue ng warrant of arrest — ikukulong sila. Pero syempre, pero lahat ‘yan, padadaanin natin sa prosesong legal (What the President meant was that cases will be filed against those needed to be charged. And if there is probable cause, the court could issue a warrant of arrest — they will be jailed. But all of these would undergo a legal process),” he said.
The President had threatened to file cases of economic plunder, economic sabotage and large scale estafa against the water concessionaires.
Panelo, who is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said the Department of Justice would lead the filing of charges.