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Serving 2 masters at the same time? Remulla questions Almendras’ alleged ‘conflict of interest’ in PH-Ayala deal

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

House Deputy Majority Floor Leader Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said he sees a potential conflict of interest on former Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras over his role as president of the Ayala-owned Manila Water and as former top aide in the previous Aquino government.

Remulla, in his interpellation during Tuesday’s joint congressional inquiry over the government’s alleged onerous water concession agreement, questioned the role of Almendras in the former Aquino regime, considering that it was during the previous administration when the concession agreement was extended for another 15 years.

Almendras previously served as President and CEO of the Ayala-owned company before joining the cabinet of former President Benigno Aquino III in 2010, and later return to the same company after serving as Aquino’s Secretary to the Cabinet.

“Do you feel any conflict of interest or there was any conflict of interest with what are you doing at that time?” Remulla asked Almendras.

“In 2010, you joined the Aquino administration for six years… and the after 2016, you went back to Ayala. In the full time that the government was dealing with Ayala you were with President Aquino at that time,” he added.

Remulla stressed that as Aquino’s Secretary to the Cabinet, Almendras had access over the deals being entered by the government then considering that it was in 2014 when the 15-year extension of the concession agreement was initiated by the government he previously served.

“You were the Cabinet Secretary, so you are aware of everything happening in the cabinet of President Aquino,” said Remulla.

In response, Almendras defended himself, saying that Aquino prevented him and former Public Works Sec. Rogelio Singson from attending any cabinet meeting with regards to water since they are then former top executives of Manila Water and Maynilad respectively.

“I was prohibited from joining any cabinet meeting that had to do with water. The records po in Malacañang will show that President Aquino prevented me, ordered me together with Sec. Singson who also came from the water industry,” said Almendras.

Almendras during the joint House inquiry said Manila Water has decided to forgo its P7.4-billion arbitral victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) against the Philippine government after it ordered to pay losses stemming from rejected water rate hikes.

Remulla later in the probe suggested the panel to further investigate the conflict of interest attached with Almendras “playing with Ayala (Corporation) and the Philippine government.”

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