President Rodrigo Duterte is poised to install retired Army Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales as the new leader of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, the Chief Executive himself revealed on Thursday night.
Speaking at a thanksgiving party thrown by Senator-elect Christopher “Bong” Go, his longtime aide, in Davao City, Duterte revealed Morales would be the water agency’s new “chairman,” although the MWSS has one in Franklin J. Demonteverde.
The Palace, as of Friday night, has yet to confirm the termination of Demonteverde or Reynaldo Velasco, the MWSS administrator.
“I got as MWSS chairman Dick Morales, Dick. But he is white, his mind is playful. But try him,” the President said, in the middle of making a point on how police and military generals didn’t need to overthrow him with a coup for allegations of corruption.
“He was the RAM [Reform the Armed Forces Movement] [member] arrested in Malacañang. Turned out he was a rebel. I think he’s... He’s the one who was slapped by Imelda (Marcos) on TV. He’s from Davao but he’s... no one’s there... Dick,” Duterte added of Morales, also a native of Davao City.
Although the President did not specifically name Velasco, the MWSS administrator said—in reaction to news reports of his firing Friday—he had no problem stepping down, and had clarified the matter with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, while awaiting for confirmation from Malacañang.
The President had previously threatened to replace all officials of the MWSS due to the water shortage in Metro Manila and for failing to prepare for El Niño, a weather pattern associated with reduced rainfall, which has led to drought in several parts of the country.
Duterte gave MWSS and other officials of water agencies 150 days to solve the water crisis.
Tens of thousands serviced by Ayala-led Manila Water in Metro Manila’s east zone grappled with a water crisis earlier this year.
Morales would be the latest addition to Duterte’s roster of former military or police officials appointed to government positions.
He is known for being part of a group of retired military and police generals called the Advocates for National Interest who in April called on voters in the recent midterm elections to choose candidates “who will protect Philippine democracy and serve as role models for the Filipino youth.”
In 2005 when he was still a colonel, Morales was relieved of command of the Philippine Army’s 404th Brigade based in Eastern Mindanao for criticizing military leadership.
In an e-mail posted on an online group, Morales had questioned the wisdom of the military brass and singled out then-Armed Forces Central Command chief Marine Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Teodosio for the construction of a 60-room resort in Boracay Island.
He was then moved to lead the Army’s 403rd Brigade based in Bukidnon by then-AFP chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon—currently President Duterte’s National Security Adviser.
When he took over as MWSS administrator in February 2017, Velasco had pledged to ensure affordable, clean and safe water for the 20-million consumers in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces and to pursue the agency’s flagship projects that will keep water supply flowing.
Earlier in the day, the agency had approved the Wawa Bulk Water Supply Project proposal of Prime Infra, the infrastructure company led by billionaire tycoon Enrique Razon, and Ayala-led MWC during its board meetings last May 9 and 22 (See related story on B1).
A retired three-star police general, Velasco vowed to pursue other flagship water projects like the Laiban Dam, Kaliwa at Kanan projects that would ensure adequate, steady and sustainable water supply for consumers in Metro Manila and adjoining provinces in the next 25 to 50 years.
The first commander of the police Special Action Force, he was endorsed by former President Fidel V. Ramos and former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa.