By JOEY NACALABAN
THE lawyer of the councilors who questioned the 2017 joint venture agreement between the Cagayan de Oro Water District and the Manny V. Pangilinan-controlled Metro Pacific Water Investments Corp. yesterday warned that COWD officials could suffer the same fate of their predecessors as a result of their bulk water supply deal.
The warning came from James Judith, the lawyer of councilors Teodulfo Lao Jr., Enrico Salcedo and Reuben Daba who complained and asked the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to void the COWD-Metro Pacific agreement.
The 2017 agreement gave birth to a new company called Cagayan de Oro Bulkwater Inc. (Cobi) that replaced COWD’s supplier of treated water, Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc..
The owner of of Rio Verde, Palawan Gov. Jose Alvarez, was held liable for graft by the Office of the Ombudsman along with former COWD general manager Gaspar Gonzales, former COWD chairman Raymundo Java and former directors Sandy Bass Sr., Sarah Borja, Francisco Mendez, Bibiana Sarmiento and Joel Baldelovar, in connection with the 2004 COWD-Rio Verde contract.
Judith said there were similarities in the manner by which the present COWD officials and Metro Pacific finalized the 2017 agreement.
The COWD-Metro Pacific agreement, he said, could result in a similar graft case against the present members of the COWD board. The COWD board is chaired by Eduardo Montalvan and its directors are lawyer Mateo Delegencia, former provincial board member Soc Anthony del Rosario, Concepcion Quiblat, and Dr. Hilly Roa Quiaoit.
Judith said the COWD board members, like their prdecessors, could end up being charged by the ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan.
He said he was contemplating on pressing charges against the COWD officials before the ombudsman but he would rather see them removed from the board by Mayor Oscar Moreno.
“Gusto gyud nako nga tangtangon nalang deretso ni mayor sila kay dugay pa kaayo nang sumbong,” said Judith, noting that it took the ombudsman years to decide on bringing former COWD officials to the anti-graft court in connection with their deal with Rio Verde.
Judith has maintained that Moreno has the power to remove the directors from the COWD board. He has rejected assertions that the mayor can only appoint COWD directors but not remove them.
He noted that majority of the COWD directors are all Moreno appointees.
Judith said the Local Water Utility Administration can only regulate and impose sanctions on erring COWD directors but it cannot remove them from the board.
“Anaa sa mayor ang tanang gahum sa pagtangtang sa miembro sa board. Pero ang problema kay wala niya na gi-exercise kay majority diha iya mang appointed,” said Judith.