MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte warned the families who own the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he intends to sue them for "economic sabotage" for their continued use of the Mile Long property.
"If I could prove, which I am studying now that that's economic sabotage, then I will file cases against them for economic sabotage," said Duterte on Wednesday, August 2, during the Bureau of Internal Revenue anniversary.
He even said he would not "allow" the Prietos and Rufinos to post bail so they can experience jail time like other criminals.
"Then I will not allow bail. Makatikim rin sila, ang mga mayaman (They will get a taste, the rich), for once in their life, makapasok sila ng presuhan (they get to enter a prison)," said Duterte.
The Duterte administration accuses Sunvar Realty Development Corporation, a firm run by the Prietos and Rufinos, of occupying the Mile Long property in Makati even after the expiration of their lease agreement in December 2002.
"You continue to lease it, which is not yours, the property, then you continue to collect. So what does that mean? It means swindling on a large scale," said Duterte on Wednesday.
Last July 28, Solicitor General Jose Calida told Sunvar to vacate the 2.9-hectare property or his office will run after the properties of the Prietos and Rufinos.
Calida said Sunvar owes the government more than P1.656 billion in rental fees, exclusive of legal interest.
The Prieto and Rufino families have been running the Philippine Daily Inquirer for over two decades. Last July, they announced the planned sale of their majority shares to businessman Ramon Ang.
The decision to sell came amid the President's renewed tirade against the newspaper and the Prietos' businesses.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.