PLAYING politics is when decisions are made for political reasons and not because it is the right thing to do.
In the case of the removal of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) board of directors, was it politics that was at play or was it the proper thing for Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella to do?
Labella, exercising his authority over the MCWD, terminated the services of MCWD chairman Joel Mari Yu, vice chairman Ralph Sevilla and directors Augustus Pe Jr., Procopio Fernandez and Cecilia Adlawan on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. He cited as reason the utility firm’s failure to address the water crisis in Metro Cebu.
It is tempting to blame politics at the Cebu City level since all the board members, except for one, were appointed by Tomas Osmeña when he was mayor.
Labella defeated Osmeña in the elections last May. In any change of administration, there is this tendency of the election winner to bring in trusted men and women.
Politics aside, it wasn’t the first time Labella warned the MCWD board of repercussions should the water shortage not be addressed.
Prior to their removal, the mayor wrote MCWD officials and the board and warned that they would be removed from office if the utility did not act on the supply shortfall.
In answer to their removal, Yu released a statement Wednesday saying, “Yes, there is a water crisis in Cebu, but it is definitely NOT our Board that caused it.”
Yu also said, “This crisis has been brewing for the past 30 years, but weak government and politics did nothing to solve it.”
Presidential Decree 198 that created local water districts said members of the board of directors can be removed “for cause only.”
Labella insisted the MCWD’s poor service was “cause” to remove its board members.
It is the MCWD that is mandated to operate the water system and ensure supply.
The absence of water, according to the law, is recognized as a “deterrent to economic growth, a hazard to public health and an irritant to the spirit and well-being of the citizenry.”
Metro Cebu’s water crisis is already an “irritant” to the well-being of residents that the mayor had to take action against the persons responsible for running the system. Who else should account primarily for the water situation if not the MCWD? Not the mayor. Not the governor. Not even former officials no longer in government.
Politics in the Philippine setting would always play a role in the running of government affairs and, perhaps, water utilities. But when Labella decided to boot out the MCWD leadership, it was because of frustration and as a reaction to the complaints of consumers. With the board’s removal, Labella now faces the bigger problem of looking for board replacements and answers to give to water consumers.