By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper
One good thing that happened in Iloilo City after Jedd Patrick Mabilog took his oath as mayor last year was that he joined the conspiracy to sabotage the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD).
I call it “good” because he merely stepped into a booby trap. His cabal failed in scuttling MIWD operations, a scenario that would have justified its privatization.
He and his gang in the city council initially gave us a glimpse of privatization through the cute word in vogue “PPP” or “public – private sector participation” which is the deodorized term for the notorious “privatization”.
His principal co-players included two overweight national legislators, a group of businessmen, and members of the MIWD board all committed to preaching the gospel of undermining the MIWD so to pave the way for its privatization.
The MIWD is considered government-owned and its employees are members of the Civil Service Commission. Its operation is regulated by the Light Water Utilities Administration (LWUA). It has its own bid and awards committee (BAC) that the LWUA approves.
However, the directors who sold themselves to PPP formed a parallel BAC which overrode the decisions of the regular BAC and so legalized irregular purchases like the hasty procurement of pipes even before the real BAC could determine the specifications.
While consumers groaned from poor services, the MIWD directors lavished themselves with fat emoluments and unimaginable perks amounting to nearly P1 million each per year although each was entitled only to per diem for every attendance to board meetings which was only once per month.
Not contented with their privileges, some directors still have the gall to refuse paying their water bills. One of them had an outstanding arrear above P300,000 when MIWD summoned all courage to collect his dues or else the utility would shut down his pipes.
All the above were calculated to incense consumers against the management and so convince the public to yield in to their scheme of privatizing the MIWD.
In fact, they thought they already had it in the bag with three political heavyweights on their side, among them, Mayor Mabilog and two national overweight legislators. They thought it was already a done deal when they met in Manila to plot the script of handing over the MIWD on the silver platter to big business to include one media mogul.
The directors thought they were already the lords of MIWD; they acted like managers, interfering in its day-to-day operations instead of merely reviewing the operations and enacting general policies during board meetings to guide future operations as the power and duty of the board was.
The directors went beyond their mandate by interfering with the daily decisions of management. For example, it overruled the BAC’s resolution of going into bulk procurement of water by public bidding where the lowest bidder deserved to bag the contract. The directors want their own BAC to determine the guidelines for bulk water supply contracts to ensure that the higher, if not highest, bidder won.
Had their scenario materialized, Mayor Mabilog and his cabal would have been victors and, for course, entitled to the spoils of war. Their PPP scheme would earn fortunes for their favored contractors if not themselves but at the expense of consumers groaning at the receiving end. The obvious consequence of having expensive water would have been the MIWD serving as a scare crow to repel investments.
Luckily, the “good thing” happened. LWUA voided the appointments of the members of the MIWD directorate and ordered its occupants to step down. They resisted and managed to wrangle a temporary restraining order that was later lifted anyway. The court later dismissed their petition. Accordingly, the security of tenure of the members of the board of trustees of government-owned or –controlled corporation is under the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the general personnel department of the government.
The rest is history. LWUA appointed a new set of directors for the MIWD. The former directors opposed its resolution that the power to appoint the members of the MIWD board belonged to governor of Iloilo Province, not to the mayor of Iloilo City. That ruling was based on the fact that Iloilo City accounted for less than 60 percent of total MIWD subscribers. At least, the former rulers no longer pester us.