This is the third post in our Maynilad Water chronicles. This time, we will talk about just how inept their record keeping skills are in the face of a massive overhaul in a given area. This involves a technique used by Meralco in high-risk areas called clustering, and is efficient – if utilized correctly. Needless to say, Maynilad has yet to be able to do this.
So in our last post, Account X’s account holder had called in his problem with Maynilad, and was waiting for the swift (hah!) resolution of the problem.
The first team of in-house engineers from Maynilad (note my use of the term “in house” as opposed to “contractors”) arrived one evening, two days after the water was cut off, and only after much prodding on the part of Account X’s holder. Upon investigation, the following facts were discovered: out of all the meters in the cluster, only three meters had their valves closed. One was tied together with a string, the other was closed with a rusted padlock, and the third was sealed – with a RED Maynilad valve lock. I mention the color because of the following reason: the red locks are used by trigger-happy contractors sent to close accounts, whilst blue locks are used by in house Maynilad engineers.
So the field team did the first thing that came to mind: they asked the account holder what his meter number was. So he showed him his billing statement; not surprisingly, the bill’s meter number did not reflect on ANY of the meters in the cluster. So again, they asked him what his meter number was. Of course, the account holder did not know what it was, since he wasn’t around when the meter was replaced. And after all, shouldn’t the water company have records of these things?
Logically, the only thing to be done was to check if opening any of the valves would bring back the water to Account X’s now-parched water pipes. The only problem was that out of the three valves that were sealed, opening two of them would be a legal problem. The one with a padlock would constitute breaking and entering (strange how removing a meter without the permission of the account holder didn’t seem to fall under the same criminal offense), while removing the official Maynilad seal was illegal reopening of a sealed meter. In either case, the hands of the first team of engineers were tied, and they went home that night, without having achieved anything, and promising that they would return the next day, with a specialist in tow.
The next day, the account holder was at home with a friend, waiting for Maynilad’s specialist to show up. Instead, another team of engineers arrived, sans the specialist. These two basically did the same thing the previous team did: they hung around the account holder, asking questions, and looked at all the meter numbers in the cluster, and cross referenced it with the account number on the bill. Of course, this wasn’t going to yield different results, so the account holder, fed up with the inane process, told the engineers to call up their bosses via their mobile phones, and he would talk to him.
After ten minutes of hashing it out with the head of the engineers, it was decided that the account holder would sign a written waiver, absolving the engineers of their guilt, in case the red lock was, in fact, not sealing his meter. After completing this, the engineers went back to their trucks to get a hacksaw – because, apparently, it was simple to seal a Maynilad meter, but required brute force to open it once again.
When he arrived with the saw, the arduous wait began. Sawing through the pin, especially if you didn’t have the proper tools, was a tedious process. The area they could work with was limited, due to the proximity of the meters to one another, and you could only saw through so much metal with a limited stroke. The engineer was breathing heavily by the time he made it halfway through the bolt.
“Let’s try snapping that off with a pair of pliers now,” his partner suggested.
And so they did. They dropped the hacksaw, went back to the truck for their pliers, and applied said pliers to the lock. With a single twist, the bolt snapped, and they turned the valve. The moment of truth.
Within minutes, the friend had texted the account holder that “Water has returned” to the house, and everyone was breathing a huge sigh of relief. Account X’s water supply was replenished, and there were no lawful ramifications to be worried about. The account holder was happy just to be able to bathe properly once again.
Wait a minute. No legal ramifications?
Well, not exactly. Previously, I mentioned that the red meter locks were contractors, whilst the blue ones were in-house. Account X was locked by a red meter lock. Now, according to the laws provided by the Philippines to Maynilad, tampering with these locks would result to a Php3,000 fine. But on this instance, the account was mistakenly locked by a contractor team. If there’s a fine for unlawfully opening a locked meter, then there should be an equally big fine for wrongfully locking a meter.
There’s also the question as to why Maynilad didn’t have any records whatsoever of Account X’s meter number, or why the contractors proceeded to relocate the meter without the consent of the account holder. Having the permission of the local government unit does not constitute a lawful act, and doing so without a proper court order might mean that it was an illegal meter disconnection.
If Maynilad were willing to back up their contractors in this endeavor, then all methods should have been exhausted by the water company in order to properly apologize to the account holder for the trouble caused by their inefficiency. However, to this day, no effort has been made. This just goes to show how much Maynilad values its customers. I guess that’s what comes out of being a monopoly.