• Govt workers want MWSS chief suspended

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    The umbrella organization of government workers nationwide called for the preventive suspension of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Administrator Gerardo Esquivel pending the outcome of the investigation of the graft charges filed against him before the Office of the Ombudsman.

    Ferdinand Gaite, national president of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), said the hiring of 40 consultants by Esquivel and the MWSS board of trustees chaired by Ramon Alikpala Jr. was not in step with the Aquino administration’s tuwid na daan (straight path) policy.

    “How can they claim to uphold the policy of tuwid na daan when appointees such as Esquivel are protected? The MWSS has reduced the benefits of its regular workers while engaging in the unauthorized hiring of consultants who rake in huge benefits,” Gaite lamented.

    Gaite said Courage supports the graft case filed by MWSS Labor Association president Napoleon Quinones and senior corporate lawyer Jeff Codamon before the Ombudsman.

    He echoed calls of MWSS employees for Ombudsman Conchita Morales to expedite the case, which has not progressed since it was filed in June 2012.

    “We call on the Ombudsman not to be exceedingly slow in this case,” Gaite said, even as he expressed sympathy to the plight and grievances of the MWSS employees.

    Gaite said the MWSS anomalies under Esquivel become even starker since President Benigno Aquino 3rd, in his first State of the Nation Address in 2010, trained his guns on the agency for the huge benefits released during the term of the past administration.

    This prompted the passage of law governing government-owned and/or controlled corporations, but MWSS employees maintained that Esquivel’s hiring binge was just as irregular.

    “PNoy made the MWSS his whipping boy for the extravagant benefits it released under the past administration,” Gaite noted.

    “But what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander as well. The anti-corruption policy must be implemented to erring foes and erring allies alike,” he added.

    According to Quinones, MWSS employees are “demoralized” after losing their benefits while Esquivel engaged in a hiring spree of consultants.

    Based on the complaint, Esquivel allegedly hired 40 consultants and approved 162 job orders despite an moratorium on the hiring of additional personnel.

    The consultants, hired for various periods of service from February 2011 to May 2012, received monthly salaries ranging from P5,000 to P400,000.

    Quinones and Codamon accused Esquivel and the board of trustees of irregularly disbursing P14.9 million in government funds to pay for the services of the consultants and job order personnel.

    The complainants alleged that the MWSS officials violated Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the government procurement law; Presidential Decree 1445 or the government auditing code; RA 3019 or the anti-graft and corrupt practices law; and pertinent rules and regulations governing hiring of employees and consultants in government.

    The MWSS board of trustees is composed of Ramon Alikpala Jr. as chairman and Esquivel as vice chairman, along with members Emmanuel Caparas, Raoul Creencia, Hermogenes Fernando, Ma. Cecilia Soriano, Jose Ramon Villarin and Benjamin Yambao.

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