By HERBIE GOMEZ
Editor in chief
and NITZ ARANCON
DISMISSED Cagayan de Oro Water District general manager Rachel Beja had the option to resign by May 31 before the utility’s board of directors unanimously decided to give her walking papers.
“She asked if she can just resign effective May 31,” said COWD chairman Eduardo Montalvan. “My answer to that was ‘No’ — that was mine, personally. It is the board that decides that option and not me alone.”
At first, Montalvan was reluctant to talk to this paper about the board’s decision to dismiss Beja for “loss of trust and confidence.” But in another interview over the weekend, he spoke about the falling out.
Montalvan said what happened was that Engr. Beja went to a former member of the COWD board, lawyer Emmanuel Gaabucayan, when she learned that the directors were about to send her a notice of dismissal.
Montalvan said, “When the board was ready to give her that option, she decided not to (resign) anymore… She said she already made up her mind and will face the music.”
After being informed that Beja had a change of mind, the COWD board voted to dismiss Beja.
Montalvan said at least two COWD directors — Soc Anthony del Rosario and lawyer Mateo Delegencia — had talked to Beja about the resignation option before the COWD board voted to boot the engineer out of the water district for good.
Beja was voted out of by the five-person COWD board chaired by Montalvan and composed of Delegencia, del Rosario, Concepcion Quiblat and Dr. Hilly Roa Quiaoit.
Del Rosario, a relative of Beja’s, reportedly delivered the notice of dismissal to the engineer with the hope that he could broker a settlement at the eleventh hour. But at the end of the day, he was the last one to sign the document.
Beja’s dismissal from the COWD was a result of in-fighting and bickerings that heaped up for a period of at least three years.
There was “bad blood” between her and Montalvan, said a highly placed COWD source who asked not to be identified so as not to further strain relationships in the workplace.
“That was one of the root causes but there were other reasons. I’m afraid there was enough basis for the dismissal,” said the source. “Rachel (Beja) did things without the knowledge of the board. Some were on small matters, some were on serious matters that could be used as bases for administrative and criminal charges.”
The source said Beja’s attention was called by the COWD board on several occasions and there were even times when it turned “personal” — she was yelled at by Montalvan in front of people.
Montalvan, for his part, cited one case: he has been serving in the COWD board for three years already and until recently, “I have not seen financial statements which I asked from her every month.”
He said he has long been asking Beja to furnish the COWD board copies of the utility’s monthly financial statements but his calls fell on deaf ears.
Montalvan said, “The reasons she (Beja) cited were the straw that broke the camel’s back but there were more.”
Other COWD officials opted to keep mum.
Beja’s successor, Engr. Bienvenido Batar Jr., said he feels uncomfortable. “I feel a bit awkward because she’s there while the COWD operations and control were tasks given to me by the board. Who would not feel awkward in a situation like this?”
Batar took over March 1 but despite that, Beja continued reporting for work.
COWD director Delegencia said he has opted not to talk about the controversy because Beja brought her case to the Civil Service Commission.
“She already filed a case and so, we would rather discuss our reasons before the Civil Service where we would be defending our position,” Delegencia said.
Beja, who has worked in the COWD for 26 years, has submitted a March 6 petition to the CSC regional office for it to review the decision of the five-person COWD board that removed her as the utility’s general manager.