Puentevella asks LWUA to take over Baciwa

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014


BACOLOD City Mayor Monico Puentevella asked on Monday the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) headed by Administrator Andres Ibarra to take over the management of Bacolod City Water District (Baciwa) amid the leadership crisis besetting the water firm.

Tension has gripped Baciwa since last week after three members of the five-member board approved a resolution to suspend general manager Juliana Carbon for various offenses, but the latter refused to step down, and even stayed at the administration building over the weekend.

During a dialogue with Carbon and other Baciwa officers, and staff on Monday, Puentevella said he also asked LWUA to send an investigating team to look into all the problems of the water district.

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As local chief executive, Puentevella has the authority to appoint the Board of Directors of Baciwa. The five directors were appointed by his predecessor, now Representative Evelio Leonardia.

"There is no unity among the five members of the Board. The three, including chairman Lawrence Villanueva, Atty. Lorendo Dilag and Marichi Fong Ramos have their own group while Directors Cecilia Henares and Atty. Maida Torre belong to another group. It’s three versus two directors," the mayor said.

A sixth member, Engr. Alfredo Bayanin, was appointed as representative from the LWUA, but he was not accepted by the Board and the case was brought to court.

Regional Trial Court Branch 48 Judge Rosario Ester B. Orda-Caise ordered on July 31, 2014 for the concerned Baciwa officials to maintain peace while the case is being heard.

Moreover, Puentevella said Villanueva, Dilag and Ramos defied the order of LWUA, the highest government agency which is mandated to regulate water districts all over the Philippines.

"My decision now is, I ordered the police force to maintain peace and order in Baciwa,” the mayor said.

Puentevella also ordered the police to prevent the five directors from entering the Baciwa premises.

"Nobody among the five will be allowed to enter the Baciwa building and compound. LWUA is kept posted with the present situation. I don't take any sides here. My side is on the rule of law which means that Ms. Ramos was never qualified for the position from the very start according to the Professional Regulation Commission. The LWUA people also recognized Arch. Ramiro Garcia Jr. as Ramos’ replacement, representing the Professional sector," the mayor said.

Puentevella said he has talked to Ibarra and officially requested LWUA to step in which means, “I want LWUA to take over. We have until Thursday to wait for LWUA on what they can do. I want them to investigate all problems here because I am questioning all decisions taken by the Board because of the question in the qualification of Ramos.”

The mayor also asked the Baciwa employees to stay calm while the questions are being addressed.

“The Baciwa union can stay and do whatever they want as long as the operation is not hampered. Business should remain as usual in the water district. The collections should continue and all employees should go back to work,” he added.

The mayor added that Carbon will remain in her post.

For her part, Carbon said, "The point of the mayor was for us not to defy the orders of the LWUA and the court. Let us not twist it and misinterpret the rules of LWUA.”

Meanwhile, Director Ramos asked what authority does the mayor have to intervene in the affairs of the water district and to even bar them from entering the Baciwa compound.

"I don't know what is the legal basis for such an order. The mayor should review the law or get his personal lawyer to give him legal advice. His power is only to appoint the Board of Directors,” she added.

Under Presidential Decree 198, she said, the mayor's power is only up to appointing the board, and he has no legal right to interfere.

"We will do our best to solve the problem. We passed a resolution to request LWUA to send us an interim general manager because of the suspension of the general manager," she said.

On the question of the legality of the Board resolution suspending Carbon, Ramos said the appointment of Carbon has already expired.

However, Carbon clarified that her appointment is permanent.

"I am a permanent employee. My term will only expire when I retire. It is very clear in the Civil Service memorandum that all general managers with permanent appointment (with a cut-off of July 3, 2013) will remain a permanent employee until their retirement or until they are separated from service,” she said.

Carbon added, "I can only be removed for a cause or after a due process. Anyone can file a case against me for any offense but it should be with due process.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 05, 2014.

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