By Arjay L. Balinbin, May 15 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Philippine Star

THE Department of Justice (DoJ) is set to submit to President Rodrigo R. Duterte its initial report on the review of government contracts with firms and other countries, including the water concession agreements and the foreign loan contracts with China, within this month, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said on Wednesday.

Mr. Guevarra also said it is “near impossible” to review all the contracts as instructed by the President last month.

In a phone message to BusinessWorld on Wednesday, Mr. Guevarra said an initial report on the review of government contracts is expected “within the month.”

Asked if there is a timeline for the DoJ team formed to review the contracts, he said: “Yes, but only for some major projects. It is near impossible to review all government contracts. The report will be submitted directly to the President.”

Among those contracts, he also said, are the “water concession agreements and the foreign loan contracts with China.”

In a statement on April 2, Mr. Guevarra said the priority contracts for review include “concession agreements on public utilities and foreign loan contracts.”

“The target provisions are those perceived to be onerous, one-sided, disadvantageous to the government, and/or contrary to public order or public policy,” he explained. “As these are contracts, the first course of action should be to jointly review and renegotiate; if this is unsuccessful, legal action for rescission may be resorted to.”

At the April 1 Cabinet Meeting, the President instructed agencies, including the DoJ and the Office of the Solicitor General, to review all contracts entered into and remove “onerous provisions that might be detrimental to the lives of the Filipinos.”

“Even if it is executed, if it’s in violation of the Constitution, you can rescind and strike it down. We’ll ask the court to rescind it,” the President’s spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in a briefing on April 2.

“The President is warning all and sundry that for as long as he is the President he will not allow anything that will go against the interest of the Filipino people. He will use the Constitution, all the powers given him to protect the Filipino people and to serve them faithfully,” he added.

“We’ll have to examine every provision in the contract. Anything against public policy or against the law, against the Constitution, we have to strike down… It would be a continuing investigation of contracts,” Mr. Panelo said further. — Arjay L. Balinbin