"CLEARLY, the order of termination from the Board over these 60 Baciwa (Bacolod City Water District) employees is an abuse of authority."

This was stressed by Bacolod City Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr., who delivered a privilege speech during the regular session of the City Council Friday afternoon, January 8, 2021.

This, after 60 Baciwa employees were barred from entering the Baciwa office in Bacolod City on Monday.

The Baciwa Employee's Union, in a statement, earlier said that on December 29, 2020, Engineer Michael Soliva, acting general manager of Baciwa, issued Office Order 2020-081, informing 60 employees that they had been declared "redundant" by the board and were, therefore, being terminated from their jobs effective last working hour of December 31, 2020.

Gamboa said as a public servant and the same as those 60 employees of Baciwa who were unjustly and illegally dismissed and terminated, their rights and tenure must be protected against an "unjust, inhuman, and illegal order" of the Board of Directors of Baciwa, who acted as the "corporate carpetbaggers and collaborators of PrimeWater Infrastructure, Inc. (PrimeWater), a known corporate raider who for just a song and a mere promise took over the realms and management of Baciwa."

“These members of the Baciwa Board of Directors believed that they are the 'absolute authority' by issuing arbitrary, capricious, and illegal resolutions and orders, which completely gave PrimeWater total supervision and control over its management, operations, collections, and the trampling of employees’ rights. Now, they have evolved as the henchmen of PrimeWater,” he said.

He added the termination of the 60 employees hammered the final nail of a total “takeover” of PrimeWater of Baciwa.

“Meaning, these Board of Directors, not contented that we, the consumers/stakeholders of Baciwa, were cooked in our own laurels, likewise kicked us out of the frying pan directly into the pit of fire,” Gamboa said.

Gamboa noted that Baciwa was created under Bacolod City Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) Resolution No. 4460 Series of 1973 pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 198.

Gamboa said the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Baciwa Lorendo Dilag together with the members cited that they terminated the employees because they are "redundant” as per Board Resolution No. 172 Series of 2020 dated December 23, 2020.

“They cannot do this according to Section 18 of Presidential Decree No. 198. Moreover, they are not redundant because they were terminated and only to be replaced by private employees. There is redundancy when two filled positions have the same functions and exist together at the same time. When the Board said, 'we are merely cutting the number of employees because the water district is overstaffed,' meaning. therefore, they are 'streamlining' Baciwa,” he said.

Gamboa asked how they could explain their previous Option 2 offer, which was “a guarantee/promise to be absorbed” when an employee resigns first and re-apply.

Gamboa cited that Section 2 of Republic Act No. 6656 or An Act to Protect the Security of Tenure of Civil Service Officers and Employees in the Implementation of Government Reorganization,” provides that no officer nor employees in the career service shall be removed except for a valid cause and after due notice and hearing.

Did the Baciwa Board cause to conduct a hearing for all 60 employees at a proper venue and those proper procedures were followed according to law? Gamboa further asked.

He said with the organizational structure of Baciwa and the status of its employees still intact, only the Civil Service Commission (CSC) can issue an order of termination and not the BOD of Baciwa.

“Clearly, the order of termination of the Board over these 60 Baciwa employees is an 'abuse of Authority.' Ironically, the BODs' mandate as public servants is imbued with public trust supposedly to protect the interest of the public, the government, and the rights of employees and workers. They, however, are the very people who trampled on these very rights,” he added.

Dilag earlier said there was nothing illegal on the move of the Baciwa to disallow the entry of 60 employees, who have been holding pickets outside their office since January 4.

Dilag said all better options and enough time, three years to be exact, of assemblies and dialogs, were given to all employees of the water district before its Joint Venture Agreement with Prime Water Bacolod was signed and implemented on November 7, 2020.

Dilag justified that the termination of the said employees is not illegal, and has an opinion from the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel and employees were informed several times before their positions were declared redundant.

He said Baciwa offered two options by applying for employment by Prime Water or an early retirement incentive plan.