NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
The Bohol Clean Water Alliance (BCWA), in one sweep, filed at the Ombudsman graft charges against Balilihan Mayor Maria Pureza Chatto and 6 national government agency officials and then sought the suspension or expulsion of 1st District Rep. Edgar Chatto for “disorderly behavior”.
The complaints were jointly signed by Emmanuel B. Ramasola (President of BCWA) and Erastus N. Leopando (Chairman of BCWA) and in their individual capacities and the BWCA itself.
Aside from Mayor Chatto, the following national officials were also named respondents: DENR Usec. Analiza Rebuelta-Teh, NEDA Usec. Rosemarie Edillon, Senior State Counsel Rosario Elena Laborte-Cuevas, DOST Director Juanito Batalon, National Hydraulic Research Center Director Roberto Soriano and NWRB Executive Director Sevilllo David.
A supplemental complaint of “disorderly conduct” was filed, as well, against the Balilihan mayor.
The case stemmed from a grant of an alleged fraudulent CWP (conditional water permit) for Balilihan despite an ocular inspection of NWRB staff (Engr. Roy Requierme and Engr. Joy Macan) and admission that the “divergent point” of the water application was in Bugwak Spring located in Magsaysay Sevilla (3rd district) and not in Sto. Nino, Balilihan as indicated in Balilihan’s WPA (water permit application).
The establishment of the submersible pump and equipment in Masaysay did not have the knowledge or permit of the Sevilla LGU and has been contested vehemently by Sevilla town Mayor Juliet Danao and their SP. No public posts were also made regarding such a project which are required under Section 9 of the amended Water Code to be placed conspicuously in the offices of the concerned barangay chairman, municipal secretary of the town and the secretary of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan indicating the diversion point.
The water NGO disclosed that the respondents showed “manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross negligence.”
Mayor Chatto countered by merely saying the accusations are “baseless and politically motivated”. On the other hand, the respondents had justified in their Balilihan approval that the LGU cannot be faulted for a mistake it did not make in identifying the wrong divergent point (previously made by another government agency) and to disapprove its CWP is “a grave injustice and inequity.”
The BCWA also filed a “disorderly behavior” against Rep. Chatto (husband of the incumbent Balilihan Mayor) before the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges for violating Section 142 of the Code of Conduct for members.
If found guilty, a House member can be suspended for 60 days or expelled depending on the gravity of the alleged offense.
The NGO cited, among others, two specific provisions under Section 142 that Chatto allegedly committed: (f) no member must personally appear as counsel in any quasi-judicial or administrative body; or be directly or indirectly financially intervene in any contract with or in any franchise or special privilege during a member’s term of office; and (g.) shall not intervene in any matter – before any office of the government for personal pecuniary benefit or where the member may be called upon to act on account of the member’s office.
CHATTO IN DENR BUDGET HEARING
In one Climate Change (a subcommittee of the DENR) budget hearing chaired by Rep. Jose Alvarez, the complainants alleged that Rep. Chatto intervened by saying (after assuring strengthening the budget of the NWRB) (Chatto is House Chair on Climate Change), that he encourages changes in the government policies ” specifically giving preference to LGUs over private entities” in granting water services to communities.
The complaint cited that Rep. Chatto said ” It is really a pressing issue in my district now, which I believe is shared by many LGUs in the country”.
On the other hand, it is public knowledge that Richli Corporation, a private venture of the family of Richard Lim is big in providing water services off surface river water from Cortes to Tagbilaran, Panglao, Dauis, Baclayon and Cortes and is interested in developing such water services elsewhere in Bohol.
Two of the country’s biggest water concessionaires Manila Water Company and Maynilad Water Services, in fact, are privately owned (not by LGUs) by the Ayala and the MVP Group, respectively.
The BCWA charged Rep. Chatto with showing “inordinate interest in the CWP of Balilihan” and “exerted effort to influence DENR Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga to favor LGUs over private entities in rendering water services to communities.