By JOEY NACALABAN
DISMISSED Cagayan de Oro Water District general manager Rachel Beja would be included in a likely lawsuit in connection with the COWD’s joint venture agreement with Metro Pacific Water Investments Corp., a lawyer that questioned the 2017 deal said yesterday.
“She would be impleaded because she is one of the signatories,” said James Judith, the lawyer of three councilors who asked the Philippine Competition Commission to nullify the COWD-Metro Pacific contract.
On Monday, Judith warned that members of the COWD board chaired by Eduardo Montalvan would likely end up being charged before the Office of the Ombudsman and subsequently, the Sandiganbayan as an offshoot of the joint venture agreement.
His clients–councilors Teodulfo Lao Jr., Enrico Salcedo and Reuben Daba–have alleged that the agreement was finalized without proper public consultations and that it would establish a monopoly.
He warned that the COWD-Metro Pacific contract could hound Montalvan and other COWD directors, including Beja, even long after they have severed their ties with the utility just like what happened to their predecessors.
Last week, the ombudsman announced its decision to indict former COWD chairman Raymundo Java, former general manager Gaspar Gonzales and former directors Bibiana Sarmiento, Sarah Borja, Francisco Mendez, Sandy Bass Sr., and Joel Baldelovar in connection with the COWD-Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc. contract of 2004.
Judith said he was contemplating on filing a complaint against the COWD officials before the ombudsman unless Mayor Oscar Moreno removed the directors from the firm’s board.
A lawsuit, he said, would mean the inclusion of Beja because of her participation in executing or enforcing the COWD board’s decision.
Beja, for her part, confirmed that she is among those who signed the joint venture agreement but explained that what she did was merely “ministerial” and because she was just designated by the COWD board. Because of that, she said she should be excluded from any lawsuit.
“Dili man gani recommendatory ang general manager. Ang recommendation direkta kana sa joint venture selection committee. Wala na na giagi sa ako. There’s no such process,” Beja said.
She also said it would be erroneous to compare what happened during the previous COWD board with the present one.
Beja said the case against the former COWD officials was in relation to the procurement law vis-à-vis the COWD-Rio Verde contract. She said the present issues are on the guidelines in the joint venture agreement between COWD and Metro Pacific.
Meanwhile, COWD chairman Eduardo Montalvan said Judith and his group could go to court if they want to but he laughed off the lawyer’s assertion that the mayor can remove members of the COWD board.
Montalvan maintained that the mayor cannot remove COWD directors and that this can only be done by the ombudsman.
He said the law is very clear that the mayor can only appoint but cannot remove the COWD directors.
Montalvan said the Local Water Utilities Administration processes the appointments and checks if requirements are met.
“Lwua cannot even sanction us. If Judith and his group have problems with us they can always go to court and file a complaint. He should know the law,” Montalvan said.
Judith has maintained that the mayor has the authority to remove the COWD directors, saying he can cite jurisprudence. This paper asked Judith to show his legal basis for his assertion but he has yet to show or cite any.