Court, not Rama, ‘has power’ to reinstate

MCWD building
MCWD buildingFile photo

ONLY the court can reinstate members of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District’s (MCWD) board of directors (BOD) who were sacked by the late Cebu City mayor Edgardo Labella back in 2019, not Mayor Michael Rama.

“They are having a pending appeal in the court. It is much better that he asks that before the court not anyone else kay (because) as a lawyer we know our procedure,” Cebu City Administrator Collin Rosell said in a phone interview on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, referring to lawyer Amando Virgil Ligutan.

On Friday, Nov. 10, Ligutan called on Rama to reinstate former city attorney Ralph Sevilla, former Cebu City councilor Augustus Pe Jr. and lawyer Cecilia Adlawan to the MCWD board if he wished “to address the issues in the water utility and uphold his manifestation.”

SunStar Cebu tried to get a statement from Rama on the matter, but the mayor, who is still on vacation, let Rosell answer the questions.

In a chat message sent on Sunday, Ligutan, the legal counsel of Sevilla, Pe and Adlawan, said that if the mayor can take action to remove directors, even when it goes against the law, the mayor should also have the authority to reinstate directors who were terminated under questionable circumstances.

“If the mayor will not do that, then it only shows how weak and indecisive he is... the people will remember him as such,” Ligutan said.

He said there could be no long-term solution without rectifying the first wrong done, saying the problem would only persist.

“To undo the first wrong committed, that is former mayor Labella terminating directors Pe, Sevilla, and Adlawan, is the first step necessary to solve the problem,” he added.

City Legal Officer Carlo Vincent Gimena, in a text message on Sunday, said Ligutan’s request is “off-tangent” as it is contrary to the court decision.

“For the sake of judicial courtesy, the Cebu City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 17’s decision dismissing the complaint filed by Attorney Ligutan’s clients, and ruling, in effect, that the mayor of Cebu City has the power to appoint and remove/dismiss the members of the MCWD board of directors should be respected as it is binding to all parties therein, including LWUA (Local Water Utilities Administration) who was impleaded as defendant. Said decision has not been reversed nor modified. So it stands,” Gimena said

He said that it would be prudent for Ligutan’s camp to just wait for the Supreme Court’s final decision.

On Friday, City Budget and Finance Officer Jerone Castillo said the City Government would stand by its decision regarding the appointment of the new BOD led by retired military general Melquiades Feliciano.

He said that it is already a “settled matter,” reiterating that the power to appoint comes with the power to remove, despite statements from LWUA and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel asserting the mayor’s lack of authority to remove.

Castillo was the city’s legal officer last month when LWUA Administrator Vicente Homer Revil sent the City Government a letter saying “local executives have no authority to remove the chairperson and members of the board of directors of a water district.”

Meanwhile, a bill proposing to amend Presidential Decree (PD) 198 to allow local government units (LGUs) to intervene in water districts has been pending before the lower house and remains unacted upon a year since it was filed by Cebu City North District Rep. Rachel “Cutie” del Mar.

Del Mar reintrioduced her late father’s proposal to amend PD 198 to allow and encourage the oversight of LGUs on the performance of water districts during the first regular session of the 19th Congress on June 30, 2022 yet.

In the website of the House of the Representatives, the bill has been pending before the committee on public works and highways since July 27, 2022.

The proposed amendment stipulates that LGUs, whose constituents are served by the water district, will not interfere with the water district’s operations, but it shall have the right and duty of oversight, specifically when service to their constituents is impaired.

In her explanatory note, del Mar said her measure was prompted by the “raging controversy” in the localities served by MCWD over the persons and entities to blame for the undisputed failure of the water district to supply adequate water to its consumers.

“Many consumers have laid a large part of the blame for MCWD’s dismal performance on their governor and respective city or town mayor and congressman for allegedly neglecting to prod and push the water district to do its job,” she said.

She said local officials have left MCWD alone after having been repetitively reminded by the Department of the Interior and Local Government “not to poke their noses into operations of the water district.”

Del Mar said local officials have a larger stake in the issue of water supply and sharper capacity because of their proximity to assess the problem compared to LWUA, the agency mandated by law to oversee water districts.

“Friction or lack of coordination and harmony between the water district and LWUA, on one hand, and the LGUs on the other, will persist if the law is not clarified or explicitly corrected,” said del Mar.

They are having a pending appeal in the court. It is much better that he asks that before the court not anyone else kay (because) as a lawyer we know our procedure.
Collin Rosell
If the mayor will not do that, then it only shows how weak and indecisive he is... the people will remember him as such.
Amando Virgil Ligutan


No stories found.

Just in

No stories found.

Branded Content

No stories found.
SunStar Publishing Inc.