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MIWD poised to file criminal, administrative raps vs Iloilo City mayor

The Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) is set to file criminal and administrative charges against Iloilo City mayor Jose Espinosa III next week over the appointments — illegally, it asserted — he issued for five individuals as members of the Board of Directors in the last week of May 2018.

This was revealed last night (July 6, 2018) by Atty. Roy Villa, corporate legal counsel of the MIWD, in an interview over my radio program, “Maayong Gab-i, Iloilo” over 89.5 Home Radio and simulcast on Facebook Live.

“The complaints are ready, and we are just waiting for the board resolution authorizing the MIWD general manager to sign them,” Villa said. He expects the authority to be signed by Monday, July 9.

Villa said the MIWD will charge Espinosa with two counts of usurpation of official function and violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 which punishes a public official or employee for causing undue injury to the incumbent board members and giving unwarranted benefits to the five-person board he appointed.

At the same time, Espinosa will be charged administratively for grave misconduct for making these appointments in defiance of an existing court order granting such authority to appoint to Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr.

Villa said the Supreme Court decision handed down on December 16, 2016 which partially struck down Section 3 (b) of PD 198 as it applies to the Metro Cebu Water District and gave it to the City Mayor of Cebu did not create a vacancy in the MIWD board.

“In the first place, the dispositive portion of the decision clearly referred only to the appointing authority for the MCWD,” he said. If ever, Espinosa should have filed a petition in court to reverse the decision of the Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 24 in 2013 that gave such power to the provincial governor of Iloilo, he said.

And even if Espinosa wielded such power, he should have waited for a vacancy to occur, and allowed the MIWD corporate secretary to solicit nominations from the concerned sector, screen the nominees and submit a list for him to choose from, Villa said.

He pointed out that the power to appoint given to local chief executives does not carry with it the power to remove.

“Such power ends after an appointment is issued, and the local chief executive cannot remove any member of the board,” he said.

The incumbent board of directors of MIWD is composed of Teodoro Robles as chairman, Juanito Acanto as vice chairman, Josephine Beata Abad-Caram, Ramon Cua Locsin and Jessica Salas as directors.

Espinosa signed appointments to Ronald Raymund Sebastian (educational sector), Antonio Sangrador (professional associations), Felicito Tiu (business sector), Ray Celis (civic oriented clubs) and Rebecca Maravilla (women’s sector) in the last week of May 2018.

Villa said the MIWD was not even aware about the appointments until it was asked by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) to file a comment on the matter on June 18, 2018.  The MIWD submitted its comment last June 29.

It may be recalled that sometime in December 2017, Espinosa issued a “cease and desist notice” against the incumbent board and demanded that they vacate their positions.

The MIWD board simply ignored the action of Espinosa as it had no enforceability in the first place.

But with the appointments made last May, the MIWD is compelled to take action and protect its interests, Villa said.

Villa is inclined to believe that these actions of Espinosa to forcibly oust the management board of MIWD is being orchestrated by the Villar family, which owns the Prime Water business. Espinosa belongs to the Nacionalista Party which is also led by former Senator and presidential candidate Manny Villar and his wife, incumbent Senator Cynthia Villar.

“It belongs to realm of speculation, but there is basis to believe that,” he said.

 

 

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No vacancy at the MIWD

City Mayor Jose Espinosa III should quickly pull out the appointments he made for the Board of Directors of the Metro Iloilo Water District and reverse his position that the entire five-man board was rendered vacant.
In December 2016, the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional a provision in the Local Water Utility Act (PD 198) that gives the power to appoint members of the BOD to the provincial governor when the number of active users of an HUC fall below 75% as it applied to the Metro Cebu Water District.
The ruling did not create a vacancy in the existing BOD of the MCWD.
What happened was that one seat in the BOD was vacated in December 2016 which was about when the decision came out. That’s because the six-year term of Atty. Manuel Legaspi expired at the end of December 2016. The next month, January 2017, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmena appointed Jose Mari Yu to replace Atty. Legaspi.
Yu is now the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the MCWB.
The other four BOD members whose terms had not expired continued to occupy their board seats and will remain there until their terms expire.
LET ME REPEAT: CEBU CITY MAYOR TOMAS OSMENA APPOINTED ONLY ONE DIRECTOR TO FILL UP ONE VACANCY.
This has been my position since this controversy broke out since last year.
True, the ruling on the MCWD applied to all water districts in the country that are similarly situated. But the Supreme Court ruling did not create a vacancy in the MIWD. It certainly did not happen that way in the case of Cebu City.

Hence, the power of the City Mayor to appoint did not arise as yet. Besides, there are procedures to be followed in the appointment process. For instance, the law requires that when a vacancy occurs, the Board Secretary is required to solicit nominations and submits a short list to the appointing authority.
Before the City Mayor gets into deeper trouble, my advise is for him to recall the appointments. Better to be embarrassed than be knocked out by a suspension on this.
I’m sorry to say this, but Mayor Joe III has gotten bad advice on this. He should be careful about making decisions on matters that can have enormous repercussions.

The reign of deceit

I never gave this affair about Jed Patrick E. Mabilog being nominated for a supposed “World Mayor” award until my friend, lawyer and journalist Teofisto “Pistong” Melliza, shared on my Facebook wall a campaign poster seeking voter support for the Iloilo City mayor among netizens.

What struck me as incredible was the statement that Mabilog is the only Philippine city mayor who was nominated to the top 25 local chief executives from around the world to vie for this award. It revealed much about what this supposed award is all about. It is a racket.

No sensible organization would confer an award as “World Mayor” on the basis of online votes by email. That method of selection could never qualify as a credible reflection of the sentiments of people from around the world. It is a deceitful ploy that will only help vultures gobble up more prey.

Inside me, I feel hurt that still a considerable number of Ilonggos are falling prey to this racket. In City Hall, officials and employees are allowing themselves to be used as tools to promote the deceit. In doing so, they are devoured by the scam and become deceitful themselves. For everybody knows Mabilog is not material for such an award if that were a legitimate one.

One just needs to look around the city to know that Mabilog can’t even qualify to be the best mayor of Iloilo City in its history. In almost every aspect of governance, Mabilog has done poorly. If there is one area where he excels, it’s in what I call “cosmetic governance”. This guy knows how to embellish an ugly picture to make it look good.

Right now, there is a public uproar over the frequent brown-outs in Iloilo City. There is hardly a day when the city is not hit by a power outage. In the past, power interruptions were caused by weather disturbances such as a thunderstorm, which caused tree branches to break and hit power lines. Lately, however, brown outs occur even in calm weather. The outages happen without obvious causes.

But Ilonggos have never heard their city mayor castigate Panay Electric Co. for its deteriorating service. Mabilog has kept unusually quiet as most of the people curse PECO for these brown outs. It’s as if Mabilog has been deaf about the people’s gripes about electrical services. The situation has turned so bad that Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a story about it. Still, Mabilog remained mum about it.

Well, Mabilog has been more vociferous on the water supply problems of Iloilo City. However, his words are never backed up by action. Four years ago, Mabilog said he would lead a picket march against the Metro Iloilo Water District unless it put an end to its inability to supply water to the city’s households. Nothing happened. Time and again, Mabilog would raise his shrill voice against MIWD. It never went beyond words.

The same thing could be said about Mabilog’s handling of the city’s garbage, crime, traffic and other major problems, to include health and sanitation. In all these areas, his performance could be described as dismal failures. He is so pre-occupied with “beautificaaation”. However, he forgets the problems can’t be hidden with cosmetics.

To my mind, Mabilog resorts to deceitful methods to hide his incompetence. He doesn’t know his job, but he doesn’t want to admit it. He needs camouflage to make him look good. He needs awards and titles to polish and shine his otherwise lackluster image. He makes heavy use of cosmetics, false eyelashes and wigs to accomplish this. Of course I use that in a figurative sense.

But there is one image that comes to mind when I think about Mabilog’s deceitful stratagems. Two years ago, he asked his media handlers to compose a “before and after” poster of his supposed achievements in cleaning up the Iloilo River. The left side of the poster showed a colony of shanties spilling over the banks of the Iloilo River, with Gaisano City in the background. The right side of the poster showed that portion of the riverbank cleared of the ugly shanties. Mabilog claimed it as his accomplishment.

Everybody knows that these squatter shanties were removed from the riverbank way back in the late 90s as part of the Iloilo River improvement project of Senator Franklin Drilon. The occupants were relocated to a village in Pavia, Iloilo. Mabilog was not yet in public office. And the improvement of the place was also upon the instance of Drilon one or two years after the structures were removed.

In short, Mabilog claimed credit for something he had nothing to do with. He shamelessly did it to project a positive image of what he had supposedly done for the Iloilo River for an upcoming international summit which Iloilo city was hosting. Such dishonesty tastes like bile, and no decent individual would consciously do it.

And so now, we see Mabilog aspiring for a lofty-sounding title as “World Mayor”. He hasn’t even started to do his job right, and he is trying to snare another false, empty, hollow title to his name.

Florete: ‘We can deliver’

(Part I of a Special Report on the Water Supply Situation in Iloilo City)

Flowater Resources (Iloilo) Inc. has the capability to deliver the contracted 25,000 cubic meters of processed water to ease the shortage of tap water in Iloilo City.

The problem is that its customer, Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD), does not have big enough pipes to bring the water to the more than 139,000 households in its franchise area.

This was the assertion Sunday of Dr. Rogelio Florete, chairman of FloWater, during a plant tour and press conference at the company’s P1 billion water treatment facility in Barangay Nanga, Pototan.

“Would I be stupid to spend a billion pesos only to fall short on my commitment?” Florete remarked before a small group of media persons. Former city councilor Perla Zulueta, who had once served on the board of directors of the MIWD, was also present to hear Florete out.

To prove his point, Florete gave the media group access to the 5-hectare property beside the Jalaur River and the water flow metering station where the company’s main 800-mm pipe connects with the MIWD in Leganes, Iloilo.

At the intake pond on the northern bank of the river, Florete showed media that FloWater has three submersible pumps, each capable of drawing 15,000 cubic meters of raw water into its filtration and treatment plant.

Dr. Rogelio Florete explains to media the mechanics of how raw water from the Jalaur River in Barangay Nanga, Pototan is pumped into its treatment facilities from a P20-million intake pond beside the riverbank.

Dr. Rogelio Florete explains to media the mechanics of how raw water from the Jalaur River in Barangay Nanga, Pototan is pumped into its treatment facilities from a P20-million intake pond beside the riverbank.

“To meet the contracted volume of 25,000 cubic meters daily, we just need to operate two submersible pumps,” Florete said. The third one serves as a spare in case one of the two submersible pumps break down.

And it’s not all: Florete showed there are a total of six chambers (one unit for each chamber) on the intake pond for the submersible pumps. Three more are not yet equipped with submersible pumps; these are in anticipation of future business when demand for water grows bigger.

It was this intake pond that became the cause of delays in the plant’s commissioning. “My agreement with the contractor was design, build and transfer,” he said. However, the contractor wanted Florete to start paying him even before construction work could even start, he explained.

“When he continued to drag his feet on the intake pond, I threw him out of the project and took over the work,” Florete added.

Florete also complained the contract imposed a deadline that was impossible to meet. “We were given only six months from the award of the contract to start delivery,” he said. Within that period, he pointed out that he was expected to buy land where the plant was to be built, obtain approval for its conversion from agricultural to industrial, develop the facility and lay out the pipes. “Even just the process of getting the conversion approved took months,” he said.

Workers at the intake pond of the FloWater Resources (Iloilo) Inc. use a vacuum hose to suck sludge from the bottom to keep its depth at optimum level and ensure uninterrupted flow of raw water into its pumping stations.

Workers at the intake pond of the FloWater Resources (Iloilo) Inc. use a vacuum hose to suck sludge from the bottom to keep its depth at optimum level and ensure uninterrupted flow of raw water into its pumping stations.

But Florete said he plodded on, determine to make his own positive contribution, and legacy, to the growth of Iloilo City.

The idea of a bulk supply contract to meet MIWD’s requirements came after its management realized its existing network of deep wells augmenting the main supply line from Maasin was simply inadequate.  MIWD has deep wells in Oton and San Miguel that draw tens of thousands of cubic meters from a known aquifer in the area. Not only was the volume of water pumped from underground sources not enough; there’s concern about overdrawing from the aquifer that could result in salt intrusion. If that happens, the aquifer would be rendered useless, as the process is irreversible.

The mainstay for MIWD’s water supply is the antiquated intake dam in Barangay Daja, Maasin, where the water is then pumped several kilometers to the filter and treatment facility in Barangay Talanghauan, Sta. Barbara. The facilities were designed and built in 1926 during the American colonial rule in the Philippines.

Supply is not the only problem. A critical factor, too, for the MIWD’s inability to deliver a steady stream of water to households is the derelict network of pipes serving the franchise area. Hundreds of millions of pesos have been spent for pipe-laying during the last two decades, but it appears much of the money went to corruption. It was discovered that most of the pipes on the ground are old, with leaks springing every hundred meters or so.

Because of these problems, a study commissioned by the World Bank, known as the “Castalia Report”, showed that MIWD is able to provide water to less than 20% of the 139,000 households in its franchise area. The study was conducted seven years ago, and since then, more subdivisions have sprouted all over the city. That number could easily rise to 145,000.

The situation is rather embarrassing for a city that aspires to host the 2015 APEC sub-ministers meeting and markets itself as a tourist destination. Its hotels depend on twice-a-day deliveries from water tankers to keep their faucets flowing. Only a few areas in the city enjoy 24-hour water service. In many areas, hardly a drop of water reaches households. The business of water tanker deliveries has enjoyed brisk sales because of this.

Hence, the need for a bulk supplier to meet the city’s needs.

(To be continued)