City to Ombuds: Probe MCWD officials for alleged graft and corruption
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Cebu City government has requested the Ombudsman Visayas to investigate the allegations of corruption and graft practices against the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD).
Lawyer Jerone Castillo, Cebu City legal officer, said there were at least two grounds for the Ombudsman to look into the serious allegations of graft and corruption against current MCWD board members.
These include the city government-verified concerns and petition of the MCWD employees against the board, and the opinion of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) on MCWD’s three joint venture agreement drafts for its three bulk water projects in Mactan Island.
Letter to Ombudsman
Castillo said the city’s letter to the Ombudsman consisted of supporting documents enough for the latter to “proceed on their own actions.”
“Gibalik ni mayor kay naa na may mention of the graft and corrupt practices act, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. Ato ning ipatan-aw…They (Ombudsman) should immediately kay kana bayang Ombudsman they can conduct their own investigation,” he told reporters.
(The mayor has reiterated the request because there are now mention of graft and corruption practices act, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. We will have these checked…They (Ombudsman) should immediately (investigate) because the Ombudsman they can conduct their own investigation.)
City Hall ‘survey’ on MCWD
Castillo said a survey they conducted during Mayor Michael Rama’s meeting with 218 MCWD employees about two weeks ago confirmed the employees’ dissatisfaction and problems at the water district.
He also mentioned that the city obtained a copy of the letter from Lawyer Rogelio Quebedo, government corporate counsel, that showed that the MCWD sought opinion on their bulk water supply joint venture agreement, and consequently, the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) said that MCWD projects’ approval is “highly irregular and grossly inexcusable.”
MCWD officials, however, in a press conference on Friday, June 9, 2023, said that the city government would not be privy to this communication with the OGCC and that the MCWD already had an ongoing action regarding the OGCC opinion.
Result of survey
On Thursday, Castillo shared the result of the city-conducted investigation or due diligence to confirm the facts on the petition letter of the MCWD employees against MCWD chairman, Lawyer Jose Daluz III; and other officials.
Of the 218 employees that they asked, 45 percent said, “dako-dako g’yod ang problema sa MCWD” (The problem of MCWD is bigger). Five percent responded that the MCWD was fine, and the rest abstained from answering the question.
An MCWD official, however, who asked not to be named, said the questionnaire the city hall gave was with no straightforward questions and was only answerable by “yes or no.”
On the other hand, Castillo said that most of the concerns that the employees raised were about the water supply shortage, management problems, and questionable projects.
“It would appear now, as they have written, that it’s really the petition verified,” he said.
Another result of their investigation, Castillo said, was their discovery of the letter from Quebedo, which was addressed to MCWD General Manager Edgar Donoso stating that MCWD’s actions on the awarding of joint venture agreement for three bulk water supply projects were detrimental to government and public service.
“Kani diayng MCWD, nangayo diay ni sila’g opinion sa kaning ilang abogado in relation sa ilang mga bulk water supply ((The MCWD, they asked an opinion from their lawyer in relation to their bulk water supply)…The dispositive portion of the opinion of Rogelio Quebedo, government corporate counsel, reads: The action of the MCWD board in preemptory approving the conduct of proceedings under the 2013 Revised NEDA JV guidelines and the awarding of the JVA to the respective proponents of these projects as well as the action of the JVAC (joint venture agreement committee) members in recommending for the project’s approval is, to say the least highly irregular and grossly inexcusable, tantamount to bad faith,” Castillo reads a portion of the said letter from Quebedo.
Castillo said the action of the MCWD approving the JVA for Cordova, Marigondon, and Canjulao projects were not given due course.
The OGCC, he said, also recommended the filing of the appropriate administrative and all criminal actions against MCWD.
Pia Mae Barnido, MCWD acting assistant general manager for finance, in a press conference on Friday, June 9, said that there was indeed an adverse opinion provided by OGCC on MCWD’s three draft JVAs for desalination projects in the Mactan Island, in Cordova, Marigondon, and Canjulao, with the total bulk water supply of 75,000 cubic meters per day.
However, the MCWD has already sent a letter to the OGCC to reevaluate the three projects.
She said they hoped that with the reevaluation, MCWD would specifically find out the issues and concerns per project so that MCWD and its private sector partner would be guided on rectifying any legal or procedural shortcomings.
However, she assured that these projects and endeavors were all above board and committed to complying with all the legal policies, standards, and regulations.
Transparent in the process
“Transparent mi ani nga process. Kani siya nga JV projects, gipublish ni siya for competitive challenge nga nanginvite tag other proponents nga moatbang ani nga proposals. The OGCC and COA were there during this process,” she said.
(We were transparent in this process. These JV projects, these were published for competitive challenge where we invited other proponents that will compete for the proposals. The OGCC and COA were there during this process.)
“Katong adverse opinion…this time, ang among request is per project g’yod ang ilang reevaluation kay ang kato man gung original OGCC opinion is too generic. We respect the counsel’s opinion mao nga nikuan jud mi nila nga please reevaluate the project,” she added.
(The adverse opinion…this time, our request is their evaluation is per project because the original OGCC opinion is too generic. We respect the counsel’s opinion, that is why they asked us to reevaluate the project.)
MCWD operation and desalination projects
She also emphasized the importance of the desalination projects to the operation of the MCWD for its franchise area.
Moreover, Lawyer John DX Lapid, a member of the JVSC, said that the MCWD would continue to fight for these projects as these could help the water thirsty areas in Lapu-Lapu City and Mactan.Lapid said these JVAs would be required to establish desalination plants as the MCWD was self-liquidating and did not need to depend on funding from the national government for its projects.
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