4 MCWD officials face criminal raps

MCWDFile Photo

FOUR officials of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District are facing a criminal complaint for allegedly falsifying public documents and for conspiring to enter into an alleged irregular water supply contracts.

They are MCWD general manager Edgar Donoso, board chairman Jose Daluz III, and board directors Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno.

They are charged with falsification of public documents under Article 171 and Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code; violating Republic Act (RA) 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act; and violating Section 3(e) of RA 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The anonymous complaint was filed at the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024.

Minerva Gerodias, MCWD spokesperson, said the four officials will reserve their comments on the matter until they receive a copy of the complaint.

Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code stipulates that a public officer, employee who committed falsification will be facing prision mayor and a fine not exceeding P5,000.

Acts considered as falsification under Article 171 include counterfeiting or imitating any handwriting, signature or rubric; causing it to appear that persons have participated in any act or proceeding when they did not in fact so participate; attributing to persons who have participated in an act or proceeding statements other than those in fact made by them; making untruthful statements in a narration of facts; altering true dates; making any alteration or intercalation in a genuine document which changes its meaning; issuing in an authenticated form a document purporting to be a copy of an original document when no such original exists, or including in such a copy a statement contrary to, or different from, that of the genuine original; or intercalating any instrument or note relative to the issuance thereof in a protocol, registry, or official book.

Financial obligation

Article 172 states that a private individual committing falsification will be facing prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods and a fine of not more than P5,000.

Punishable acts under Article 172 include any private individual who commits any of the falsifications enumerated in the next preceding article in any public or official document or letter of exchange or any other kind of commercial document; and any person who, to the damage of a third party, or with the intent to cause such damage, shall in any private document commit any of the acts of falsification enumerated in the next preceding article.

The anonymous complainant claimed that the water district will bear the financial obligation amounting to P66.8 billion due to the alleged “irregular and anomalous” bulk water supply agreements, which may also lead to an increase in the cost of water in Cebu.

The copy of complaint, though, did not state which water supply projects were involved.

In a summary of the complaint obtained by SunStar Cebu, the complainant said the four MCWD officials insisted on procuring a multi-billion peso bulk water supply, while pointing out that the officials have yet to solve the excessive volume of water loss due to leaks.

The complainant also accused them of imposing highly irregular eligibility requirements for bidders and a monopoly of a single bulk water supply company.

The complainant said Daluz, Donoso, Pato and Seno entered into alleged anomalous water supply agreements which are “pricey but do not immediately solve the water crisis in Cebu,” adding such projects will not be operational until 2025.

“This begs the question of why spend so much on projects that do not even address the most urgent issue MCWD and the consuming public is facing,” the complaint said.

However, the complainant did not specify which projects were involved.

The complainant also pointed out the officials’ failure to address the non-revenue water which the Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged since 2020.

According to the complainant, the COA has been advising the respondents, through its COA audit report in 2020, 2021 and 2022, to repair old pipelines and fast-track the processing of excavation permits.

More allegations

The complainant said Daluz, Donoso, Pato and Seno did not heed COA’s instructions, and they instead chose to enter into contracts that are costly and have delayed results.

“While cheaper and practical alternatives were presented to respondents, they instead opted to enter into contracts that not only would cost so much but would also produce delayed results, if at all,” the complaint said.

The complainant said the respondents fixed the bidding price of the total contract to several billions of pesos for each project, blocking other possible eligible and qualified bidders and limiting the pool of competitive public bidding to a few or a singular contractor.

The complainant said the practice is against the legal principle of competitive bidding.

The complainant cited as an example one bidder who won MCWD’s latest bidding, the same firm that got two previous water supply projects. Each project was allegedly priced at billions of pesos.

The firm or the projects involved were not named, though.

The complainant said if the sitting MCWD officials’ practices do not stop, they will leave the water district “insolvent.”

“Respondents have compromised the administrative and financial viability of MCWD and ultimately have prejudiced the consuming public. The exorbitant price of the water projects after all would ultimately ripple to the consuming public, who would be paying a higher price for a possibly unsteady supply of water,” the complaint said.

The complainant has requested the anti-graft office to subpoena witnesses, including Daluz, Donoso, Pat and Seno, as well as the board of directors appointed by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama: chairman Melquiades Feliciano, members Aristotle Batuhan, Nelson Yuvallos, Danilo Ortiz and Earl Bonachita, among others.

Rama appointed Feliciano, Batuhan and Yuvallos last Oct. 31 to replace Daluz, Pato and Seno, but the Daluz’s camp refused to step down.

The MCWD employees, through an official statement in 2023, acknowledged the group of Daluz, together with Ortiz and Bonachita, as the valid board.

Last December, in a press release sent to the media, the Daluz-led board declared the two seats vacant after Ortiz and Bonachita declared that they would no longer attend future meetings, citing their refusal to recognize the present board led by Daluz as legitimate.


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