OIC Baena stays out, eyes talks with Daluz, Donoso

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TO AVOID causing another commotion and disruption in the operations of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD), its newly appointed officer-in-charge general manager decided not to physically visit the water district’s main office on his first full day of work in Cebu on Tuesday, after the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA)-suspended MCWD board and general manager refused to recognize his appointment.

But in an interview on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, Baena cited among his priorities meeting with the officials suspended by the LWUA to resolve the issue on the regulator’s authority over them, as well as initiating a dialogue with the stakeholders, including the employees and the consumers, to identify existing problems in the local water district and how to resolve them.

“I’m treading carefully because I do not want to rock the boat. We are in close consultation with all the stakeholders on how to proceed on the matter without causing much distraction,” Baena said on “Beyond the Headlines,” SunStar Cebu’s online news and commentary program.

Baena did not specify who he was meeting, but Keith Noel Wenceslao, barangay captain of Sambag 2, Cebu City, was among them because Wenceslao posted on Facebook Tuesday a photo of Baena as MCWD OIC GM visiting him for a “dialogue on water problem, water rasyun (rationing) and MCWD plans for better service.”

Baena said he wants to give the necessary support to the MCWD employees for them to focus on serving the consumers in times of water crisis.

“Konsulta sa tah. Ang atong approach ani sa situation kay we get the inputs sa tanan affected stakeholders,” Baena said on “Beyond the Headlines”

(We consult first. Our approach is to get the inputs of all affected stakeholders.)

He added that he wants to check the status and inventory of all assets and water resources of the MCWD.

“Para ig lingkod nato kay naa tay (So that when we sit down to work, we’ll have) sufficient data to have an informed decision later on,” Baena said.

Second OIC

The interim board that the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) installed at the MCWD appointed Baena as the second OIC GM of the MCWD last Monday, April 22, after the first OIC GM it appointed, MCWD customer care division manager John Dx Lapid, resigned from his post last April 16 after just four days in the OIC role.

Lapid’s short stint as OIC was plagued by controversy, starting from when he was barred from entering the MCWD main office in downtown Cebu City on the morning of April 15, to his entry to the building that night with 70 people from the Cebu City Government who allegedly forced their way into suspended general manager Edgar Donoso’s office on the fifth floor; and to the disruption of frontline services such as bills payment and reconnection requests on April 16 after the suspended MCWD officials claimed that the “invasion” of its main office had instilled fear and confusion among its employees.

Not recognized

Baena has the support of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, but not that of MCWD chairman Jose Daluz III and fellow board members Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn May Seno, whom the LWUA suspended last March 15 for six months, and general manager Edgar Donoso, whom the LWUA-installed interim board suspended last April 12 for 90 days.

Baena is a partner in the Rama Baena Tan and Ang Law Offices run by Mayor Rama’s son, Mikel.

Following Baena’s appointment on Monday, MCWD put out a statement declaring its stance to recognize only the board of directors composed of Daluz, Pato and Seno, and general manager Donoso, and directing all MCWD managers and employees to “strictly adhere to directives from the legitimate Daluz-led board and GM Donoso.”

The suspended officials do not recognize the authority of the regulator LWUA to suspend them, so they also do not recognize the interim board and OIC GMs that the LWUA appointed.

SunStar Cebu called LWUA Administrator Jose Moises Salonga for comment on Baena’s appointment, as well as the MCWD’s announcement Monday to safeguard its “office premises against any potential intrusions” and to increase security measures “to prevent unauthorized access by non-MCWD personnel.”

However, Salonga was unable to respond as he said he was still in a meeting.


Baena said among his priorities was to enforce the LWUA’s directive on MCWD as the duly constituted regulating authority. However, he said this must be done without disrupting the operations of the local water district and affecting its employees and consumers.

The LWUA suspended the Daluz-led board last March 15 to make way for an investigation on issues surrounding the local water district, like the high non-revenue water rate and alleged non-compliance with procurement laws. Donoso was suspended for defying the interim board’s request to turn over documents on MCWD’s transactions and failing to explain his decision.

The Daluz-led camp has continued to refuse to recognize the LWUA’s suspension order after the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) rendered an opinion on the legality of the LWUA’s partial takeover of MCWD’s policy-making board, which both the Daluz camp and the LWUA have interpreted as being in their favor.

Baena said he planned to meet with Daluz and Donoso’s camp on how to resolve the issue regardless of their differences.

He said every involved party has his interpretation of the OGCC’s opinion; however, he urged the MCWD stakeholders to obey the directive of the LWUA as the duly constituted authority of all water districts in the country.

Baena said he had yet to review the current supply contracts made by the camp of Daluz and Donoso with the various water suppliers including for desalinated water; however, he stressed that if the benefits outweigh the risks for the consumers, then there was no need to stop them.

On the matter of his compensation, Baena said he had yet to discuss this with the LWUA.


Mayor Rama on Tuesday said the City Government is willing to support the new acting general manager of MCWD and the LWUA if they would seek City Hall’s assistance.

“Ah yes, of course. We are not only ready to assist, we are ready to make the city’s right respected,” Rama said on “Ingna’ng Mayor,” the Cebu City Government’s program on Tuesday, April 23.

Rama, who was on an official leave, said Baena has the capability to lead the MCWD due to his background as a lawyer.

Since last year, Rama has been trying to remove Daluz, Pato and Seno from the MCWD board. Daluz claimed this was because the Daluz board opposed Rama’s attempts to “privatize” the MCWD and after Daluz’s suggestion that younger and fresh names of their political coalition run in the 2025 election—a suggestion that senior citizen and seasoned politician Rama did not take well.


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