Daluz changes mind, keeps MCWD post

CEBU. Metropolitan Cebu Water District chairman (MCWD) Jose Daluz III.
CEBU. Metropolitan Cebu Water District chairman (MCWD) Jose Daluz III.Photo by Arkeen Larisma

JOSE Daluz III will not be stepping aside as chairman of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) anytime soon.

During a press conference at the North Reclamation Area in Cebu City on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, Daluz renounced his statement last Friday, March 15, that he would abide by the Local Water Utilities Administration’s (LWUA) appointment of an interim board to take over the water district’s policy-making body for the next six months.

Also on Wednesday, LWUA Board of Trustees chairman Ronnie Ong sent a press statement to SunStar Cebu containing a show cause order against MCWD general manager (GM) Edgar Donoso for allegedly circulating a memorandum with false information against LWUA’s order, and for allowing unauthorized and personal use of the water district facilities for political matters.

During the press conference attended by Donoso at the PDG law office on the second floor of the BYS Complex, Daluz and fellow board members Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno reaffirmed their commitment to continue functioning as MCWD’s board.

Daluz said he would stand alongside the management and employees of MCWD in adopting a status quo stance pending the resolution of the legality surrounding LWUA’s takeover, which he, Pato and Seno also question.

He said LWUA issued a notice of takeover without giving prior notification. Although LWUA used Resolution 35, s. 2023 to justify its move, he said it failed to furnish MCWD with a copy of the resolution.

The Daluz-led board passed a resolution formalizing the adoption of the status quo stance and the members’ commitment to remain in their posts during a special board meeting on Wednesday.

Daluz said they held their meeting at the law office because there were police personnel outside the MWCD premises in downtown Cebu City who were asking if he was in his office.

SunStar Cebu passed by the MCWD office on Wednesday and saw at least 10 police personnel deployed outside.

Daluz said Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama also sent a Swat team to the MCWD office when the mayor threatened to use his police powers to remove him, Pato and Seno last year.

Meanwhile, Donoso said the interim board appointed by LWUA visited the MCWD office on Tuesday, March 19, and asked to look at some documents, which he did not specify. He said he showed the documents to them but he did not provide them with copies.

He said that during a Zoom meeting with the interim board, he told its members of his support for Daluz’s camp.

LWUA implemented the takeover of the MCWD board on Friday, March 15, but Donoso, on Monday, March 18, said they would maintain the status quo until they received the opinion of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) on LWUA’s takeover.

A press statement issued by MCWD spokesperson Minerva Gerodias on Wednesday disclosed that a meeting took place between the MCWD executive committee and LWUA representatives to discuss the takeover.

According to MCWD, Presidential Decree (PD) 198, the law establishing water districts, only permits LWUA to take over in the event of a loan default. But MCWD’s loan payments to LWUA are current.

MCWD’s legal officer sought clarification on LWUA’s internal protocol regarding takeovers, as PD 198 does not outline a specific procedure. But, according to the press statement, LWUA was unable to provide a satisfactory response.

MCWD insisted that a fundamental due process should be observed in the absence of a defined policy.

During the press conference, Donoso said if MCWD committed violations, a notice should have been issued to provide the water district with the opportunity to respond, comment or rectify matters.

He said there was no due process. Instead, he said LWUA initiated an outright takeover without issuing notices, adding that the lack of due process was the primary reason they are questioning the takeover.

Daluz also said they hope Cebu City Police Office Director Ireneo Dalogdog can shed light on his personnel’s role within MCWD office’s premises.

He said one police officer insisted on entering the building outside of office hours and while not in proper uniform, both of which he deemed inappropriate.

Meanwhile, LWUA ordered Donoso to let the interim board it has appointed, take over the water district’s policy-making body.

LWUA Board of Trustees chairman Ong, in a press statement to SunStar Cebu, said the agency has lawful jurisdiction over MCWD as the latter’s regulator and policymaker under PD 198, or the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973.

Ong asked the CCPO to secure MCWD’s office premises in downtown Cebu City to prevent any concealment, destruction and removal of various documents from the water district.

LWUA Administrator Jose Moises Salonga enforced Resolution 35, series of 2023, last March 15, appointing an interim board to take over the MCWD board composed of Daluz, Pato, Seno, Earl Bonachita and Danilo Ortiz and ordering them to cease discharging their functions for six months.

Salonga installed LWUA officers Maria Rosan Perez, Noel Samonte and Anabelle Gravador to take their place. He also tasked all MCWD personnel to report to the interim board and follow its directives.

Ong said he received reports of an MCWD memorandum on March 15 referring to LWUA’s intervention as an “intention” to intervene, rather than a valid and legal order already implemented.

He said under PD 198, the LWUA By-laws, and the Manual of Corporate Governance, Donoso’s job is not to represent the regular board but rather to represent the management through the implementation of a valid order from LWUA as the regulating agency.

“Instead of the GM (Donoso) meddling with the affairs not that of the management, he should do his job as GM instead by implementing valid orders from LWUA which has lawful jurisdiction over MCWD,” Ong said.

Section 24 of PD 198 states that “the general manager, who shall not be a director, shall, subject to the approval of the board, have full supervision and control of the maintenance, operation and construction of water supply and wastewater disposal and administrative facilities of the district, with full power and authority to exercise management prerogatives as set forth in the district’s personnel rules and regulations.”

LWUA also questioned MCWD management’s decision to allow the “unauthorized and personal use” of the water district’s facility last March 16 and 17 for political purposes.

Ong said management allowed Daluz to use the MCWD Social Hall and facilities for the assembly of Kilusang Pagbabago Pilipinas Cebu City chapter, a political organization, on March 16, and for a meeting on March 17.

Aside from being an outright violation of Resolution 35, or the partial takeover of LWUA, Ong said MCWD Office Order 134-02-06, or the “Amended Guidelines on Social Hall Usage/Reservation,” prohibits using the MCWD Social Hall for any political conventions, meetings or caucuses.

“The usage by Attorney Jose Daluz of the MCWD Social Hall for a political assembly is a manifestation of his treatment of MCWD as his personal political support,” Ong said.

“The GM should not be allowing any unauthorized, personal use of the facilities of the MCWD nor should he be involved in any politicking or grandstanding that hampers the implementation of a lawful partial intervention of LWUA,” he added.

LWUA’s Board of Trustees approved Resolution 35 last September. But former LWUA administrator Vicente Rivel asked the OGCC for its opinion on the resolution, stopping its implementation.

The OGCC issued Opinion 223 in which it said LWUA’s intervention in water districts can be valid only if the following are met: (a) the water district is indebted and unable to meet the payments to LWUA; (b) a valid and lawful order from the Civil Service Commission; and (c) a valid and lawful order from the Office of the Ombudsman.

Revil had said that none of the conditions were present in the issue at MCWD.

In an interview on Nov. 9, 2023 OGCC corporate counsel Rogelio Quevedo said LWUA functions as a lending corporation for the water district, hence it has no authority to intervene or remove MCWD’s board unless there is a concern over the financial capability of the water district to repay its loan.

LWUA can only appoint a sixth member that will oversee the financial capability of the water district to pay back its loan to LWUA.

Quevedo said MCWD has a P12 million loan from LWUA. / EHP, AML


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