La­bella, LWUA sued

The Freeman - - FRONT PAGE - Mitchelle L. Palaub­sanon and Mary Ruth R. Mali­nao Staff Mem­bers

Three mem­bers of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cebu Wa­ter Dis­trict (MCWD) Board who were ter­mi­nated by Cebu City Mayor Edgardo La­bella in Oc­to­ber sued the mayor and four of­fi­cials of the Lo­cal Wa­ter Util­i­ties Au­thor­ity (LWUA) yes­ter­day.

Atty. Ralph Sevilla, Au­gus­tus Pe, and Atty. Ce­cilia Ad­lawan asked the Re­gional Trial Court to nul­lify the no­tice of ter­mi­na­tion La­bella is­sued, as well as the des­ig­na­tion of in­terim mem­bers of the Board of Di­rec­tors.

They asked that the court to is­sue a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der and in­junc­tion, among oth­ers, and to or­der La­bella and the LWUA of­fi­cials to pay P1 mil­lion in moral dam­ages.

The four LWUA of­fi­cials sued are act­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor Jeci La­pus and LWUA Board of Di­rec­tors mem­bers Roberto San An­dres, Eileen dela Vega, and Christina Marcelina.

"The facts of the case clearly demon­strates re­spon­dents' ma­li­cious, brazen, and wan­ton dis­re­gard and vi­o­la­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional rights of due process of the plain­tiffs most es­pe­cially the plain­tiff mem­bers of the MCWD board of di­rec­tors," the 33-page pe­ti­tion reads.

The plain­tiffs said La­bella re­sorted to trial by public­ity be­cause they were never charged of any le­gally de­fined in­frac­tion. La­bella and LWUA also al­legedly did not lis­ten to their side and did not give them a fair trial.

The re­spon­dents al­legedly vi­o­lated Sec­tion 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the Pres­i­den­tial De­cree 198 or the Pro­vin­cial Wa­ter Util­i­ties Act of 1973.

Plain­tiffs said LWUA and La­bella vi­o­lated the MCWD Char­ter, con­tend­ing that there is noth­ing in LWUA's Char­ter that au­tho­rizes it to take over, ei­ther par­tially or fully, the op­er­a­tions of a lo­cal wa­ter dis­trict like MCWD.

It can be re­called that La­bella, in a let­ter to each MCWD board mem­ber dated Oc­to­ber 15, 2019, in­formed them of the ter­mi­na­tion of their ser­vices, cit­ing wide­spread dis­sat­is­fac­tion on the part of wa­ter con­sumers.

“There is a process in the ter­mi­na­tion of the mem­bers of wa­ter dis­trict board of di­rec­tors and it was not fol­lowed,” the MCWD Board said in a state­ment.

The plain­tiffs said they de­cided to file the case so that laws are pro­tected.

“It's a choice be­tween one's in­ter­est and what is right and we chose what is right,” they said.

They said La­bella does not have any au­thor­ity to ter­mi­nate their ser­vices, say­ing the ter­mi­na­tion was done

“with­out both sub­stan­tive and pro­ce­dural due process.”

They also ques­tioned La­pus' ap­proval of the il­le­gal ter­mi­na­tion or­ders and the nam­ing of the in­terim mem­bers of the board.

They said the re­spon­dents' ac­tions vi­o­lated sev­eral and wellen­trenched mem­o­ran­dum cir­cu­lars of the De­part­ment of In­te­rior and Lo­cal Govern­ment (DILG), which man­date the strict com­pli­ance and ob­ser­vance by lo­cal govern­ment units the op­er­a­tional au­ton­omy and in­de­pen­dence of lo­cal wa­ter dis­tricts.

"Re­spon­dents' orches­trated at­tacks against the plain­tiffs are pre­dicted upon the scarcity of wa­ter sup­ply-phe­nom­e­non suf­fered not just by Cebu City and nearby LGUs but all over the world due to cli­mate change and dis­re­garded by hu­mans by the law of na­ture," the pe­ti­tion reads.

"Af­ter the con­clu­sion of the trial of the merit of the case, is­sue an or­der in fa­vor of the plain­tiffs mak­ing per­ma­nent the writ of pre­lim­i­nary pro­hibitory and/or manda­tory in­junc­tion against the re­spon­dents," the pe­ti­tion reads fur­ther.

LA­BELLA

The mayor said he is ready to an­swer the charges in court and he al­ready ex­pected the fil­ing of the case.

"Fil­ing a case is one thing and prov­ing it is an­other," La­bella said.

He said he will file his counter-af­fi­davit once he re­ceives a for­mal copy of the pe­ti­tion.

"I will just pre­pare the nec­es­sary con­tro­vert­ing ev­i­dence as part of the due process re­quired… We are ready to an­swer them in the proper time," La­bella said.

City Le­gal Of­fi­cer Rey Gealon also believes that the law is on the side of the city govern­ment.

"The law is on our side and we have noth­ing to fear," Gealon said.

He said the mayor can ter­mi­nate the mem­bers of the board of di­rec­tors of a lo­cal wa­ter dis­trict for causes as pro­vided by law, like fail­ing to meet the fit and proper stan­dard as pre­scribed in R.A. 10149 or for loss of trust and con­fi­dence as pro­vided in ju­rispru­dence.

Re­pub­lic Act 10149 or the GOCC Gov­er­nance Act of 2011, which ap­plies to lo­cal wa­ter dis­tricts pre­scribes du­ties, obli­ga­tions, re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and stan­dards of care in ad­di­tion to the pow­ers and func­tions pre­scribed by Pres­i­den­tial De­cree 198.

R.A. 10149 states that mem­bers of the board of di­rec­tors must pass a stan­dard called the fit and proper rule which shall in­clude, but not be lim­ited to, stan­dards on in­tegrity, ex­pe­ri­ence, ed­u­ca­tion, train­ing and com­pe­tence.

"The Gov­er­nance Com­mis­sion for Govern­ment Owned and Con­trolled Cor­po­ra­tion has is­sued Mem­o­ran­dum Cir­cu­lar No. 2012-05 to im­ple­ment the fit and proper rule. Hence, di­rec­tors of lo­cal wa­ter dis­tricts must qual­ify un­der P.D. 198 and R.A. 10149 and dis­charge their func­tion un­der P.D. 198 while keep­ing the stan­dards pre­scribed in R.A. 10149," reads the opin­ion from the city le­gal of­fice.

Pres­i­den­tial De­cree 198 or the Pro­vin­cial Wa­ter Util­i­ties Act of 1973 pro­vides that in the event that more than 70 per­cent of the to­tal ac­tive wa­ter ser­vice con­nec­tions of a lo­cal wa­ter dis­trict falls within the boundary of a city, the ap­point­ing au­thor­ity of the mem­bers of the board of di­rec­tors of the lo­cal wa­ter dis­trict shall be the mayor of the said city.

On the other hand, Sec­tion 11 of P.D. 198 as amended by Sec­tion 5 of Pres­i­den­tial De­cree 768 states that di­rec­tors may be re­moved for cause only, sub­ject to re­view and ap­proval of the Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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