Seares: When did MCWD firing take effect? GM picked Yu side; how about Coping?

[1] LABELLA, YU CIVIL TO EACH OTHER. In terminating the services of the five members of Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD), Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella wrote last Oct. 15 to chairman Joel Mari Yu, prefacing the bad news with, “It is with a heavy heart” that he was firing them.

MCWD board chief Yu and general manager Jose Eugenio B. Singson Jr. in their Oct. 17 reply were also polite, “It is with deepest regret” that the MCWD board of directors could not comply with the dismissal order.

Either or both (a) may just be following protocol in polite letter-writing or (b) may actually mean it.

[2] WHEN DOES FIRING TAKE EFFECT? The mayor in his letter to each of the five MCWD directors said the termination was in effect Oct. 15, 2019, the day the notice was sent out. By the way, GM Singson was not included in the firing but with a new board, and his open stance for Yu, he could reasonably expect it.

The law (Presidential Decree 198, as amended) says the director “may be removed for cause only, subject to review and approval” by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).

What does that mean? Either the termination takes effect (a) on the day mentioned by the appointing/firing authority (the mayor) or (b) only upon the approval after review by LWUA. The law may be interpreted either way, an ambiguity that can lead to lawsuits and gridlocks.

[3] WHAT MAYOR EDGAR MIGHT DO. With the defiance of the directors, as expressed publicly by Yu, Mayor Labella might wait for the LWUA review and approval before enforcing his decision and naming new directors.

If Labella won’t appoint the directors yet or will put off their assumption into office, there will be no problem of physical confrontation or fight for office space.

The board’s function is limited by law to policy-making: “The board shall not engage in the detailed management of the district.” (Section 18, Chapter V of PD 198). They can keep away from day-to-day operations and won’t be missed.

The district could do business “as usual” but board action to undertake projects and tap new sources of MCWD’s depleted supply is needed. Would projects already on stream move if there would be two boards clashing over the right to see the projects through?

[4] GENERAL MANAGER’S POSITION. The GM has “full supervision and control of the maintenance and operation of water district facilities.” The board appoints him by majority vote. In practice, it is the mayor who picks the GM as he controls the board by his appointments.

The present situation is an exception to the mayor’s control. Labella inherits directors and a GM who were appointed by his predecessor and rival Tomas Osmeña. Only one director was appointed by Edgar’s ally Mike Rama.

[5] WHERE DOES ‘COPING’ STAND? When Yu and Singson replied to the mayor’s order of dismissal, they carried the name of the entire board. “It is with deepest regret that the MCWD BOD...”

Mayor Labella included in the firing Procopio E. Fernandez who was appointed by then mayor Mike Rama, the mayor’s ally, for the unfinished term of Joy Pesquera from Jan. 13, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2020. (Joy ran for councilor in 2016 and won.)

Does Coping count himself in with the “Defiant Five” from BOPK? Did he give his assent to his inclusion in the group and the branding of Labella’s move as an “illegal act”? If he did, he must have been thinking only of his remaining term as director and not of Barug party interest, which is at stake in the controversy.

[6] DOES YU HAVE SUPPORT OF ENTIRE MCWD? If you didn’t notice it, Yu’s and Singson’s Oct. 17 letter spoke not just for themselves and the four other directors whom Mayor Labella had dismissed.

They also claimed support from the entire MCWD organization. In the first paragraph of the widely publicized letter, Yu and Singson announced that the rebuff of the mayor’s action was “with the full support from the entire MCWD as an organization.” “Despite your (Labella’s) illegal order,” Yu and Singson said, “MCWD shall remain steadfast in performing its mandate...”

[7] BRUISING FIGHT AHEAD? If Yu and Singson already have the support of the “entire” MCWD organization, it would be a more bruising fight than what City Hall watchers expected and many water consumers feared.

Unavoidably, there would be politicians and bureaucrats, unelected and unaccountable, in the shadows, pulling the strings, providing logistical support and issuing marching orders.


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