LWUA questions MCWD GM’s defiance of partial takeover

LWUA questions MCWD GM’s 
defiance of partial takeover
Photos by Earl Kim Padronia

THE Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) urged the management of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) to reread the legal opinion of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) after the local district defied anew the authority of the LWUA to intervene.

LWUA Administrator Jose Moises Salonga received a letter from MCWD general manager Edgar Donoso claiming that the OGCC opinion was favorable to the water district and to board directors Jose Daluz III, Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno, who are currently suspended.

The OGCC opinion was signed last March 26, 2024 but wasn’t released to the public until Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

Dishonest

In a press statement on Wednesday, April 3, Salonga said Donoso’s claim was misleading and dishonest, and described it as being close to grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, gross insubordination and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Salonga said that according to OGCC’s opinion, LWUA can intervene in the operation and management of a water district based on specific circumstances.

He questioned Donoso’s interest in defying LWUA’s partial takeover and for speaking on behalf of the suspended members of MCWD’s board of directors (BOD).

“I advise the MCWD management to respond to the show-cause order served against them by the interim board, and not drag the whole management and operations of MCWD into this issue,” Salonga said.

“The MCWD rank-and-file employees and the people of Cebu are not the subject of this partial intervention and yet they are unnecessarily dragged and prejudiced by the MCWD management,” he added.

In the same statement, LWUA chairman of the board of trustees Ronnie Ong urged Daluz to analyze the OGCC’s opinion.

Ong slammed Daluz’s multiple retractions of earlier statements that he would obey LWUA’s orders.

“The problem with you is that when the law is convenient for you, you follow. When it’s not, you don’t. Stop using MCWD as your personal political vehicle by twisting the OGCC opinion and even misinforming the MCWD employees and the public about the partial intervention,” Ong said.

He said LWUA has the authority to determine and declare MCWD in default under Presidential Decree 198, as amended, and under their 2015 Financial Assistance Contract (FAC) with MCWD.

Under the FAC, “in default” includes not only failing to make loan payments but also violation of any terms in the FAC such as the MCWD’s failure to address its high non-revenue water (NRW), resulting in an annual loss of revenue by an average of at least P117.759 million per year.

“This partial intervention is all about investigation and fixing what needs to be fixed. This is between LWUA and a water district and should not be about any individual or personalities. Kung walang tinatago, hindi na kailangan pang umabot sa ganito (If there is nothing to hide, it shouldn’t have come to this). Let this be a warning too to other water districts that LWUA really means business, and we are monitoring all of the water districts closely,” Ong said.

“Final demand” notice

LWUA lawyers from Metro Manila arrived in Cebu late Wednesday afternoon and headed to the MCWD office in downtown Cebu City to serve the “final demand” notice against board members Daluz, Pato, Seno, Donoso and his assistant for finance, Pia Mae Barnido.

The lawyers had already left when SunStar Cebu arrived.

The building guard told SunStar that the “secretary” had received the notice, which contains the “final demand” to vacate the MCWD premises, cease and desist from functioning as board members, explain the unauthorized exercise of BOD authority given the public statement issued on March 15 stating that they were stepping down to give way to the interim board and the pronouncement of the former chairman on March 21 that despite his previous stepping down he chose to give in to public clamor and defy the letter dated March 15, cease usurping the authority of the interim board duly installed in MCWD last March 15, and explain/show cause why no disciplinary action should be taken against them for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, gross insubordination and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. / EHP

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