Water district board fires general manager

THE Cagayan de Oro City Water District's (COWD) board of directors (BOD) has fired Rachel Beja as general manager effective February 28 this year.

The termination of her services caught Beja off guard. She said she was terminated supposedly for being disrespectful, resulting in the board’s "loss of trust and confidence" in her.

In a letter addressed to Beja dated February 5, the board said Beja was discourteous to the board when she asked the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) to review the contract between the utility and Metro Pacific without their knowledge.

The board said Beja's move gave the impression that they were not working as a team.

The board said Beja was again discourteous when she scheduled a management planning conference in Cebu City and informed the board only after plane tickets have been purchased.

Beja was also faulted for holding a thanksgiving affair for the utility's partners who helped them during Typhoon Vinta without consulting the board of the plan and assigning chairman Eduardo Montalvan to give the welcome remarks without prior notice.

"Further to this, you placed yourself in the role of giving a message after that of the chairman, which is a violation of a very common protocol that the person with higher position should be the last to speak," the letter stated.

The board had given Beja seven days to explain why no sanctions should be imposed on her. The letter was signed by Montalvan, vice chairman Mateo Delegencia, and Soc Anthony Del Rosario, the board secretary.

On February 21, the board wrote again to Beja expressing their disappointment that Beja's response to the letter started by accusing the board of harassment and oppression.

Beja said she was then informed of her relief as general manager and directed to turn over her responsibilities to assistant general manager Bienvenido Batar Jr.

Beja subsequently asked for clarification on her status following her relief order, but the board, in a reply last March 1, pointed out that Beja has already been terminated from her position for loss of trust and confidence.

Beja said she is still confused why an action that was made a year ago is being used against her just now.

Beja said it was "SOP" (standard operating procedure) to seek a review of the contract at the OGCC and said she was sure the board was informed of the review.

She said she highlighted some provisions of the contract, particularly if it is legal for the new bulk water supplier to buy water from another supplier, among others.

"Is it legal for the new bulk water supplier to just buy water, isn't this disadvantageous? Second, is it okay if MetroPac has no facility because this is a joint venture, and third I asked to review the option that if they create a new facility, is it okay that the contract will be extended for another 20 years and the water price might change?" she said.

Beja said this issue was already settled in April last year, before the contract was even signed by both parties.

As to the second and third grounds for her termination, Beja said the board was informed of the Cebu City meeting, and pointed out that it was not her intention to disrespect the board.

It has been over a week since she was terminated but Beja still reports to her office.

"My feeling is (there has been) injustice and what they did to me was unfair because I have been here for 26 years, and from being an office laborer to being a general manager, it is with pride that I did not ever do anything to abuse power. I took care of this position," she said.

Beja was appointed as general manager of COWD in 2011.
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