Water Crusader Shot Twice

A water district official was shot twice in the head after bringing to the management’s attention the contamination of his district’s water supply.


BACOLOD CITY – An unidentified gunman shot the chief of the Kabankalan City Water District (KCWD) for reasons that reports say are more political than personal.

George Ortaliz, 46, was shot twice in the head last January 5 by an unidentified gunman using a caliber .45 pistol as he came out of his office on Tayum St., Kabankalan City (98 kms south of this city). The gunman and a companion then escaped on a motorcycle.

As of press time, Ortaliz is confined at the Intensive Care Unit of the Riverside Medical Center in this city and is reported to be out of danger. However, he could be rendered blind as the assassin’s bullets badly damaged his eyes and face.

Family and friends asked for maximum police security for Ortaliz following reports that the culprits are out to finish him. According to them, only Ortaliz can identify the gunman and the brains behind the assassination attempt.

As of press time, the gunman remains unidentified while the companion who served as driver of the getaway motorcycle was suspected by the Bacolod police to be Val Lobrique. The latter – who remains at large – is said to be a resident of the city and a casual employee of the KCWD.

Local and provincial police investigators said that the gunman is most likely a “professional gun-for-hire” from another place. They are analyzing various angles to determine the motive of the assassination attempt. According to them, it could have been caused by a love triangle or conflict at work.

Job and crusade-related

Dan Alcoriza, regional vice-chairperson of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), and one of the key convenors of the Water System and Employees Response (WATER) – an alliance of water district employees opposing water privatization – denounced the shooting and believed that it is related to Ortaliz’s job and advocacy.

Alcoriza said that Ortaliz is one of the convenors of WATER which co-sponsored a regional water conference last Dec. 2 to 3, 2004 in Bacolod. In that conference, Ortaliz was reportedly very vocal about poor water services, water privatization, and corruption in various water districts, including the KCWD.

Poor water services

Alcoriza revealed that months before the regional water conference, Ortaliz acted on several complaints of KCWD consumers regarding the district’s water. He said Ortaliz asked the assistance of Villanueva Laboratory in Bacolod to check KCWD’s water system. The laboratory found KCWD to be distributing contaminated water.

KCWD manager Aquilles Zayco and the board reportedly ignored the laboratory’s findings, Alcoriza said. Ortaliz was then prompted to file an administrative case against Zayco in the Ombudsman in December 2004.

Alcoriza told Bulatlat that it is likely that Ortaliz had “stepped on the toes of the powers-that-be in Kabankalan.”

Like other water districts being privatized, Alcoriza believed that KCWD is being mismanaged to pave the way for the take-over of a private company, or to close it altogether so that private water refilling stations and bottled water distributors can monopolize the water service sector. Bulatlat.com

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