CALLS for the resignation of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) administrator Gerardo Esquivel grew even louder on Wednesday after anti-crime group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) vowed to help agency workers pursue the cases against their boss.
VACC founding chairman Dante Jimenez said his group is willing to assist MWSS employees in prosecuting Esquivel, adding that President Benigno Aquino 3rd himself “at the very least, should look into the charges being levied against his appointee.”
Jimenez sided with MWSS Labor Association leader Napoleon Quinones who said that Esquivel’s stay at the water agency has become untenable since his own employees have charged him with graft.
“We hope the President will keep his word when he promised genuine reforms in his administration, and that if his allies are doing things that are not in line with his reform agenda, the President should not hesitate to hold them accountable,” Quinones said.
“We are calling on the President to remove administrator Esquivel and revamp the MWSS leadership because his own people have lost trust and confidence in him because of his anomalous actions. Even if Mr. Esquivel is a friend and an appointee of the President, this should not make him any less accountable,” he said.
The MWSS labor group has filed at least 11 graft complaints against Esquivel and the agency’s board of trustees before the Office of the Ombudsman.
The latest was filed last week for the alleged anomalous hiring of 21 students under the MWSS’ Special Program for Employment of Students or SPES last year.
Aside from Esquivel, who is the vice chairman, the MWSS board of trustees is composed of Ramon Alikpala Jr. as chairman, along with members Emmanuel Caparas, Raoul Creencia, Hermogenes Fernando, Ma. Cecilia Soriano, Jose Ramon Villarin and Benjamin Yambao.
The labor group earlier challenged Esquivel to step down “out of delicadeza” but he brushed aside such calls.
The MLA earlier drew the support of militant group Mamamayan Laban sa Katiwalian (MLK) as well as the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), which is the umbrella organization of state workers.
MLK spokesman Zeny Guillermo said Esquivel was clinging to power because he contributed P10 million to President Aquino’s campaign fund during the 2010 elections.
Courage National President Ferdinand Gaite said it was only proper for the President to crack the whip on Esquivel and the board of trustees.
The group, which has been demanding the scrapping of the concession agreement (CA) between the MWSS and water concessionaires Manila Water Company and Maynilad Water Services Inc., described the abuses committed by the firms as “endemic.”
“Only in the Philippines,” Water for All Refund Movement (WARM) president Rodolfo “RJ” Javellana said of the alleged abuses.
“Dapat magpakita ang Maynilad at Manila Water kung anong bansa sa mundo ang pinapayagan ng kanilang gobyerno na lokohin ang water consumers para ang water concessionaires ay gumawa laban sa interest ng consumers,” Javellana told The Manila Times.
Javellana was referring to advance collections, illegal billings and income tax liabilities being passed on to water consumers by the two concessionaires.
“This doesn’t happen in other countries,” he stressed.
Javellana added that anyone can notice these add-ons by going over their water bills.
“Pag titingnan mo ang operating expenses ng Manila Water ang pinakamalaking item ay operating cost na kargado sa consumers. Kabilang dito ang salaries and wages dahil sa laki ng executive salaries. Bukod pa dyan ang management and consultancy fees na ‘immoral self dealing’ ng mga Ayala at Manila Water,” he said.
But another consumer group on Wednesday accused Javellana and WARM of misinforming the public about the truth behind the latter’s allegations.
Jayson Luna, convenor of the Coalition of Filipino Consumers (CFC), the umbrella organization for five urban poor groups, said those who are accusing Maynilad and Manila Water of overcharging committed intellectual dishonesty over their failure to present a court decision dismissing the syndicated estafa charges against Maynilad on June 24.