Labella order legal—City Attorney

THE Cebu City Legal Office (CCLO) has come out to defend Mayor Edgardo Labella on claims that the mayor violated the law when he dismissed five members of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) board of directors.

City Attorney Rey Gealon said that the mayor can terminate a director for causes provided by law such as failing to meet the fit and proper rule prescribed under Republic Act 10149 otherwise known as the Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations (GOCC) Governance Act of 2011, or for loss of trust and confidence as based on jurisprudence.

The “Fit and Proper Rule” of RA 10149 provides standards to determine whether a member of the Board of Directors/Trustees or CEO is fit and proper to hold a position in a GOCC which include integrity, experience, education, training and competence.

Gealon noted that Labella terminated the directors’ membership in MCWD board for “loss of trust and confidence” and “fit and standard rule” as enunciated in the case Provincial Government of Camarines Norte vs. Gonzales and RA 10149, respectively.

“Knowing him to be a level-headed and reasonable man, the mayor may convince them that the best course to take is to step down,” said Gealon.

Board chairman Joel Mari Yu, in a letter to Labella Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, said, “It is with deepest regret that the MCWD BOD (board of directors), with full support from the entire MCWD as an organization, cannot imprudently accede or comply to the same.”

Yu called Labella’s termination of their services “illegal and invalid” because it is in “direct contravention of no less than the Philippine Constitution, Presidential Decree (PD) 198, existing relevant circulars and issuances, including jurisprudential guidelines.”

Labella said the MCWD officials should understand the legal ramifications and consequences of not heeding the order of the mayor.

“I would like to invite his attention to the case of Provincial Government of Camarines Norte vs. Governor Gonzales, that’s about the lack of just cause,” said Labella.

Labella said the members of the board of directors are “over 18 year old, they are all professionals, and they know the legal ramifications” if they would not step down from their posts.

“And if the chairman, who happens not to be a lawyer, does not realize this, he better consult a lawyer and maybe to some of the lawyers who are members of the board if he does not heed the order of the mayor,” added Labella.

Lawyer Democrito Barcenas, Carcar City Water District board of directors chairman, said Labella did not undergo due process in terminating the MCWD board of directors.

Barcenas said the MCWD officials were not given a chance to explain their side before their termination.

“I don’t think this has followed the law; there must be due process. It is unfair. I am convinced that this violated the principle of due process,” said Barcenas.

SunStar Cebu tried to get Labella’s reaction on the statement of Barcenas, but the mayor was in Manila for a meeting.

Before the mayor issued the order of termination, he sent a letter to the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) to ask the agency’s opinion on his plan to dismiss the members of the MCWD board of directors.

Last Oct. 1, the LWUA responded and affirmed Labella’s order through a no-objection letter on the termination of the five MCWD directors.

Aside from Yu, Labella ordered the termination of MCWD board members Augustus Pe Jr., Procopio Fernandez, lawyer Ralph Sevilla and board secretary Cecilia Jugao-Adlawan last Tuesday, Oct.15. (JJL)


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