Hiring of misfits spells legal woes for water agency head

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Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) workers on Friday have accused their administrator, Gerardo Esquivel, of committing graft in the hiring of 21 students for the agency’s internship program.

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In a position paper submitted on October 7 to the Office of the Ombudsman to bolster pending graft and grave abuse of authority cases against Esquivel, the MWSS Labor Association (MLA) said the students hired under the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) were not qualified.

The program is supposed to cover poor but deserving students but some of them were seen bringing their own laptops to the office, said MLA, the complainant in the graft case against Esquivel.

In his counter-affidavit, Esquivel admitted that under the SPES, the students do not meet the requirement of being underprivileged. He argued that all the orders issued regarding the hiring of the students under the SPES were only typographically wrong.

Esquivel said the students were really hired under the Government Internship Program (GIP), which does not require students to be poor.

“The acronyms GIP and SPES are oftentimes used interchangeably to refer to the program for summer interns, which may have caused the clerical error,” Esquivel said in his counter-affidavit.

However, MLA vice president Napoleon Quinones said Office Order 2012-45 on the GIP, which was cited by Esquivel was different from Office Order 2012-63 on the SPES.

“They could have just amended the GIP order if that was really their intention. But they issued a separate order for SPES. Ang haba ng acronym ng SPES para maging typographical error [The SPES acronym is rather long to be a typographical error],” Quinones lamented.

Quinones noted that even in the Certificate of Availability of Funds dated May 16, 2012, the MWSS leadership still used SPES for the hiring of the 21 students.

“And even if the students were hired under the GIP as alleged by Mr. Esquivel, the requirements under GIP were also not met. In particular, there has been no evidence to show coordination with the National Youth Commission,” Quinones added.

Esquivel again tried to work his way out by saying that the recruitment under the GIP was done according to the eligibility requirements of the Presidential Council Youth Affairs.

“Perhaps Mr. Esquivel is being funny. He is citing something that has been amended over the years. And there is no more PCYA because it has been replaced with the NYC,” Quinones said.

He said the students were also hired without submitting any documentary requirements to the Human Resource and Records Management Division of the MWSS.

MWSS employees have repeatedly called for Esquivel’s resignation, buoyed by a Commission on Audit (COA)-Audit Observation Memorandum released in April, which also found deficiencies and irregularities in the hiring of additional consultants from 2011 to 2012.

CoA ruled that Esquivel’s hiring binge violated an existing moratorium and was done without public bidding.

The CoA also underscored that consultants hired were “redundant” as there were available MWSS personnel who can perform the same duties and responsibilities.

“There are available MWSS personnel who can perform the designated duties and responsibilities of the hired consultants, negating the necessity of hiring,” the CoA report read.

MLA has filed a complaint for graft and corrupt practices against Esquivel for hiring 36 consultants and 162 job order personnel. The employees said this resulted in the irregular disbursement of P14.9 million in public funds.

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