Daluz, 2 others kicked out of MCWD board of directors

File photo
File photo

CEBU City Hall has kicked out chairman Jose Daluz III and members Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno from the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) board of directors (BOD) effective Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.

The Cebu City Legal Office furnished them a copy of the notice of their removal and termination dated Aug. 1, 2023, which was duly received by the MCWD management, BOD, and the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).

The copy was received on behalf of the MCWD management only, on Aug. 17, 2023.

Citing the notice of termination, Cebu City Legal Officer Jerone Castillo said the power to appoint carries with it the power to remove or to discipline.

Castillo said the decision reechoes the latest verdict of the Regional Trial Court on the removal of MCWD directors, referring to civil case r-ceb-19-09477-cv involving the complaint filed by former BOD members Augustus Pe Jr., Ralph Sevilla and Cecilia Adlawan against then Cebu City mayor Edgardo Labella and Local Water Utilities Administration acting administrator Jeci Lapus, now both deceased.

SunStar Cebu reached out to Daluz and Seno for comment, but calls and text messages to them were left unanswered. However, MCWD sent a short statement.

When asked about the replacement of Daluz as BOD chairman, Castillo said the decision is not in the hands of the city government, but rather it is the responsibility of the LWUA.

“My office was directed (by the Office of the Mayor) to execute the order of removal and termination,” he explained.

He assured that the City will comply with any guidance provided by the LWUA.

He said the City had requested that the LWUA issue a Certificate of No Objection concerning the termination.

When asked about the termination process, he explained that the City had first conducted an investigation into the issue, as approved by Mayor Michael Rama. While the investigation was ongoing, the respondents were given the opportunity to present their side of the story.

“If I am not mistaken, only Atty. Joey Daluz answered,” Castillo said.

He said the investigation report and recommendation submitted by the Cebu City Legal Office was approved by Mayor Rama on July 29, 2023.

An excerpt of the letter of approval by Rama read: “This Office finds the investigation report and recommendation submitted by the City Legal Office to be in order and the same is hereby approved.”

No privatization

Castillo also clarified that contrary to “malicious” talk, MCWD will not be privatized as it strives for an efficient and sustainable supply and distribution of potable water.

He said that during their investigation, there were allegations that the City’s intention was to privatize MCWD.

“That was never the intent. If that is their defense, then that is a wrong defense,” Castillo explained.

He emphasized that the respondents should have answered the allegations squarely.

“Kon unsa unta ang alegasyon, mao unta to ang gitubag,” Castillo said.

MCWD response

MCWD opted not to comment at length on the latest development, pending the actions to be taken by LWUA.

But in a short statement sent to the media on Thursday, MCWD cited Section 11 of Presidential Decree 198, the law that established the water districts, and was amended by PD 768, which stipulates that directors may only be removed for cause, subject to review and approval by LWUA.

The government-owned and -controlled corporation also assured its consumers that it will continue fulfilling its mandate despite the issues that have arisen.

“The water district assures its consumers that it remains committed to fulfilling its mandate of providing safe, clean and affordable water to the people of Metro Cebu,” MCWD said in the statement.

MCWD supplies water to the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Talisay, and the municipalities of Liloan, Consolacion, Compostela and Cordova.

Recommendation

Last June 15, Castillo recommended the removal of Daluz, Pato and Seno--all appointees of Labella--from MCWD, citing a petition for their removal by the MCWD Employees Union and its Executive Board before the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas over the deteriorating income of MCWD and their failure to meet the water needs of the utility’s customers; as well as the Feb. 27, 2023 opinion of Government Corporate Counsel Rogelio Quevedo that the MCWD board’s approval of three bulk water supply projects in Mactan, Cebu violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

But Daluz said the real reason they were being eased out was their opposition to MCWD’s proposed privatization by a company owned by billionaire Manuel Villar Jr., which he said Rama was promoting.

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