Non-government organizations contesting the ‘pass-on-charges’ by two giant water utility concessionaires on consumers are preparing plunder charges to be slapped not only on the private firms but also on government officials who worked at the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) before and during the implementation of the controversial Concessionaire Agreement (CA).
Not only calling for President Benigno Aquino 3rd to void the CA, the Water for All Refund Movement (WARM) led by President Rodolfo Javellana, Jr. and Sonny Africa of the Water for the People Network (WPN) and executive director of Ibon Foundation, said they are preparing the plunder case against the owners of Maynilad and Manila Water as well as the government officials who worked for the privatization of the water supply service and sewerage and sanitation mandated by law to the MWSS.
The plunder suit could include two high-ranking Cabinet secretaries, Rene Almendras and Rogelio Singson, who are former executives of Manila Water and Maynilad; MWSS chair Ramon Alikpala and his deputy Randolph Sakay, and former Local Water Utilities Administration head Eduardo Santos, among others.
In a weekly forum at Balitaan sa Hotel Rembrandt, Javellana said the two giant private concessionaires have been availing of the services of ‘spin doctors’ to mislead the public to their cause and actions. He cited published stories that their case at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court had been dismissed for lack of merit.
“In fact, we have withdrawn it as we are elevating the case to the Office of the Ombudsman for charges of plunder against not only the owners of the private concessionaires but also government officials who once served as MWSS heads. Kitang kita ang collusion and consiparcy from within. Lutong Tubig ito,” Javellana said.
Africa, on the other hand, said President Aquino’s silence on the water issue shows his strong backing to the two concessionaires.
“Mabilis magsalita pag kalaban sa politika ang naririnig. Pagkakampi sa negosyo tahimik (He is first to speak up against his political opponents, but is silent when his allies in the business community are concerned),” Africa said referring to President’s being mum on the issue.
Javellana said they have documents to prove that MWSS officials had connived with the concessionaires in handing out subcontracted contracts to other private firms, citing one project that had a P126 million bid from a sub-contractor, but which was won by DMCI with a P164 million bid.
The plunder case, he added is enough to pin down all those involved in shady deals at the MWSS controlled ‘CA’.
Meanwhile, Napoleon Quinones, MWSS Labor Association leader, in the same forum showed the list of consultants including media and public relation practitioners, indirectly collaborating Javellanas’ point.
Quinones led the filing of at least 10 graft charges against present MWSS administrator Gerardo Esquivel before the Ombudsman including illegally hiring 42 “consultants.”
He also cited one of the biggest blunders made by the water regulatory agency was in contracting China’s Water Electric Corporation for the Angat Water Utilization and Aquaduct Improvement Project that cost the goverment over P5 billion.
Quinones said the project was inaugurated by the President in 2005 but a ’variation order’ allowed in the contract forced the MWSS to pay P60 million January this year for the interest alone and another P68 million this July.
He added that they had already asked Singson to conduct an independent and impartial review of the project’s variation order.