Beja defies COWD board, refuses to vacate office

THE dismissed general manager of the Cagayan de Oro City Water District (COWD) said she would have to be dragged out of and barred from her office as she will continue to report for “work” even after she was fired by the utility’s board of directors.

"I have no plans to leave my office. I still report everyday because that is also the advice of my lawyer," said Rachel Beja.

She said she will only vacate her office if the Civil Service Commission (CSC) orders her to do so.

"But until then, I will stay in my office. The CSC for me, will be the final decision," she said.

Beja is asking the CSC to review the decision of the COWD board of directors.

She was fired by the board, who claimed to have lost trust and confidence in her after she made some decisions without consulting or notifying the board.

Beja said the new general manager, Bienvenido Batar Jr., has already issued a memorandum to withhold her salary.

Meanwhile, Beja said she is willing to work with city officials in their efforts to scrutinize the supply deal between the utility and Metro Pacific Water Investments Corporation deal.

She clarified, however, that it was not her intention to question the contract.

She said she meant no harm when she asked the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) to review the joint venture agreement with MetroPac.

"It's hard to answer that but all I can say is, I can answer their questions if I have enough knowledge of their questions. They can ask me. I can always answer," Beja said.

"I did not question the contract but I had to do it because I had to make sure especially (because) I am one of the signatories and if a problem came up, I can be liable," Beja said.

Her decision to have the joint venture agreement reviewed was one of the reasons cited by the board of directors for her termination.

Beja confirmed that the MetroPac contract underwent deliberations by the board. But she wished to clarify some points.

"The OGCC is the water district's lawyers so I thought my move was all right. There were discussions and the board created a committee but that committee reports directly to the board. If they write a report, what they give me is only a courtesy copy and they give it to me a night before the board meeting. So I had really no time to study it all," she said.

Eduardo Montalvan, COWD chairman, earlier said Beja's request for a review left a bad impression and made it appear that the utility’s officials were not working together as a team.

Beja's termination appeared as a silver lining for city councilors Teodulfo Lao Jr., Rueben Roa Daba, Enrico Salcedo and lawyer James Judith who are all seeking to annul the contract of COWD and MetroPac.

Lao, in a previous interview, said he welcomed the possibility of working with Beja.