​VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Aquino MISLEADINGLY dragged into Manila Water-Maynilad issue

A Facebook (FB) page claiming to be for “homeowners cheated” by Ayala-owned companies published a post falsely connecting former President Benigno Aquino III to Manila Water, one of two water concessionaires in Metro Manila whom President Rodrigo Duterte accused of economic sabotage because their contracts were disadvantageous to the public.

FB page Ayala Corporation Scandal on Dec. 8 posted a photo of brothers Fernando and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala with Aquino. The two are chair and vice-chair of the Board of Directors of Manila Water, a subsidiary of Ayala Corporation.

In its caption, it accused the two businessmen of “controlling” and “paying” media outlets to not report the issue on the country’s water concession agreements. It also included a link to a video by YouTube Channel Ang Malayang Pilipino (The Free Filipino):

“Ayala brothers, ang nagmamayari ng Manila Water sa pilipinas na nais ipakulong ni Pres. DUTERTE. Controlado nila ang dyaryo, tv at radio kaya hindi nyo ito naririnig or nababalitaan. Bayad nilang lahat yan (The Ayala brothers, who own Manila Water in the Philippines, are the ones Duterte wants to jail. They control the newspapers, television and radio that is why you would not hear any news about this. They are all paid).

Credit to Ang Mayalang Pilipino
#ayalacorporation #manilawaters

Ayala Corporation Scandal is misleading the public; the photo of Aquino with the Ayalas has nothing to do with the video it linked nor with the Manila Water issue. The accusation against media being paid was only copied from Duterte’s pronouncement.

A reverse image search reveals the photo of Aquino with the Ayalas was captured by Reuters photojournalist Erik De Castro during the opening of the Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway (MCX) on July 24, 2015. MCX, the first project under the Public Private Partnership program of the Aquino government, is operated by the Ayala-owned MCX Tollway Inc.

The video by YouTube channel Ang Malayang Balita was lifted from the Dec. 5 situation briefing by Duterte with various government officials about Typhoon Tisoy. Duterte, in some parts of the briefing, expressed anger towards Maynilad and Manila Water for demanding “billions in damages” from the government. In one instance, he claimed in the briefing that he needed to talk to the Filipino people so they are aware of the issue because it is not being properly reported in media amidst what he called “damage control” by the two companies. There was no mention of Aquino in the briefing.

Earlier this month, Duterte threatened to take over Manila Water and Maynilad, and arrest the people behind the “onerous” deals they entered into with the government in 1997.

His ire stemmed from the order by the Singapore-based Permanent Court of Arbitration for the Philippine government to pay more than P7 billion to Manila Water as compensation for income losses resulting from disallowed rate increases. Maynilad won a similar case in 2017 involving P3.4 billion. The two concessionaires, however, rescinded Dec. 10 their demands for compensation and expressed willingness to renegotiate the contracts.

On Dec. 11, the state-owned water regulator Manila Water Sewerage System announced the revocation of the prolonged concession agreements with Manila Water and Maynilad. Their contracts were supposed to end in 2022 but were extended until 2037 by former President Gloria Arroyo in 2009.

Ayala Corporation Scandal’s post could have reached almost 6,000 social media users.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)