Duterte threatens newspaper owners anew

Posted on August 03, 2017

PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte on Wednesday said he is studying the possibility of filing charges against the owners of newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer for their alleged illegal occupation of a government-owned commercial property without due payment to the state.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte gestures while delivering his speech at the 113th Founding Anniversary of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in Quezon City on Tuesday, August 02, 2017. PHILIPPINE STAR
The Inquirer, which has been accused by Mr. Duterte of biased reporting, is owned by the Rufino and Prieto families. The two business clans also control Sunvar Realty Development Corp., which occupies the Mile-Long property along Amorsolo Street in Makati City.

In his speech during the 13th Founding Anniversary of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Mr. Duterte slammed anew the Inquirer for supposedly “attacking” his administration and warned the newspaper’s owners to “surrender” Mile-Long.

“Ang Inquirer when they attack us in government, it is as if we are really a band of robbers,” Mr. Duterte said.

He pointed out that the owners of Mile-Long continued to earn profits from the property despite the expiration of their lease contract -- an act he qualified as “swindling on a large scale.”

“If I could prove, which I am studying now, na yan ay (that it is) economic sabotage, then I will file cases against them,” he said.

“They must return everything, including an accounting on how much they collected all these years.”

Mr. Duterte has vowed to recover the Mile Long property from the two families, alleging they got the prime lots because of a sweetheart deal with previous administrations.

Last week, Solicitor-General Jose C. Calida called anew on Sunvar to vacate the Mile-Long property and accused the Rufino-Prieto-owned real-estate firm of squatting on government property and owing the state P1.66 billion, exclusive of legal interest.

In response to Mr. Calida’s allegations, Sunvar’s lawyer, Alma Mallonga, said: “Based on a reading of the contracted condition,...Sunvar did its part....It has good faith...that the respected up until 2027.”

Last month, Inquirer Group of Companies Chairman Marixi R. Prieto said she has “resumed discussions” with San Miguel Corp. President Ramon S. Ang for the sale of the family’s interest and “majority” shareholdings in the Inquirer Group, which owns a broadsheet, tabloid newspapers and a radio station.

The negotiations happened months after Mr. Duterte singled out the paper for its critical coverage of his administration’s bloody war on drugs.

The President earlier said Mr. Ang has financed some of his trips during the campaign period. The billionaire businessman, however, did not acknowledge the campaign-related contribution. -- Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral