METROPOLITAN Cebu Water District (MCWD) board chairman Jose Daluz III, who had survived three attempts to unseat and oust him from MCWD and is now facing a fourth, has condemned the alleged illegality and ill motive, as well as the violation of the process by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.
Daluz said Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), the water utilities agency that oversees local water districts, has not yet acted on Rama's termination order against him and two other board directors.
And out of the three new directors, Daluz in his reply singled out as a mistake the appointment of lawyer Aristotle Batuhan, who will represent women in the MCWD board.
MOTIVES. Reacting to the fresh "assault" against Atty. Joey Daluz and two MCWD co-directors -- unleashed Tuesday, October 31 (2023) -- Daluz called the mayor's moves a violation of the law and an irregular process. As in the past orders against him and co-directors Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn Seno, the new order, Daluz said, is tainted with political and personal motives. And the allegations of corruption against him and his co-directors are false tales spread by Mayor Mike, he said.
Daluz, a lawyer and former councilor and ex-campaign manager of Partido Barug, said the mayor is preparing for the next elections and wants to privatize MCWD. Rama has repeatedly denied the accusation of ill-motive, citing instead the importance of MCWD's service and the disruption at the water district a threat to an adequate and safe water supply.
Daluz, also last Tuesday, blasted the choice of Atty. Batuhan as director representing women. Just a day before he left for his month-long vacation in Australia, Mayor Mike administered the oath of office to Batuhan and two other new directors: businessman Nelson Yuvallos and retired Army general Melquiades Feliciano. The three were to replace Daluz and co-directors Miguelito Pato and Jodelyn Seno. On the same day, the new appointees, with the two remaining directors, whom the mayor "reappointed" and also swore in -- lawyers Earl Bonachita and Danilo Ortiz -- held their first board meeting under the "new chairman," Mel Feliciano.
BATUHAN'S CREDENTIALS. Atty. Batuhan had served as president and CEO of BCDA or Bases Conversion and Development Authority, director of North Luzon Railways Corp., Fort Bonifacio Development Corp., Bonifacio Water Corp., Bonifacio Communications Corp., Filinvest BCDA Clark Inc., and Philippine Japan Initiative for Clark Green City Inc. He was presidential adviser at the Presidential Management Staff in April 1999. He worked with then President Joseph Estada in the review of infrastructure contracts and other foreign-funded projects, and with then President Gloria Arroyo as senior legal consultant at the presidential chief of staff office 2006 to 2007. He was DOTC undersecretary during the first year of then President Benigno Aquino III. His educational background includes economics at University of San Carlos, law at UP Diliman and masters at Harvard Law School. Plus legal consultant at various conglomerates, including the Metro Pacific Tollways Developement Corp. whose joint venture with Cebu City and Cordova has produced the expressway CCLEX.
Those strong and impressive credentials -- which the City Government's news outlet CCNI published in detail and private media did not -- would seem to over-qualify him: as MCWD director and yet Daluz questioned Batuhanan's appointment.
'BECAUSE I'M NOT A WOMAN.' In February 2020, LWUA confirmed the appointment, by then mayor Edgardo Labella, of three of five MCWD board members. One of two rejected nominees was former city mayor Alvin Garcia, who was to represent the women's sector. Garcia, in a Facebook post that regular media picked up, said he accepted LWUA'S decision but would still offer his ideas to MCWD if consulted. "They rejected my nomination because I'm not a woman. They have the right to do so and I accept," Garcia's post said.
Appointing a woman to the MCWD board had a precedent. In the five-person Joel Yu-led board that the previous mayor Tomas Osme a appointed and succeeding mayor Labella sacked wholesale in October 2019 was Procopio Fernandez, who represented women. In January 2020, Labella appointed five persons to replace the Yu team: Joey Daluz, Atty. Frank Malilong Jr., Miguelito Pato, Manolette Dinsay and ex-mayor Garcia. Garcia was to fill the seat of Proc Fernandez.
Proc Fernandez got in and served until removed with his co-directors by Labella. Fernandez was and is a man. LWUA might have used one standard for Yu's team and another for Daluz's group.
WHAT THE MEMO CIRCULAR SAYS. The LWUA rejection of Garcia's appointment said that "per LWUA Memorandum Circular 005.16 (dated June 6, 2016), the appointee for the women's sector should be a respectable citizen of the female gender to represent women's organization(s)."
A check with the said memo though does not find the LWUA-quoted requirement. The qualifiers in the memo-circular apply only to the women's organization, not to members: such as "organizations whose undertakings align with the mission and vision of the Philippine Women's Commission, which champions women's empowerment and gender equality"; organizations "known and duly registered with the local government; such as Catholic Women's League, Gabriela, Soroptomist Club, Samahang Kababaihan and the like."
The Local Water District Law, contained in Presidential Decree 198 of 1973 as amended, says the board of a water district shall be composed of five Filipino citizens of voting age who are residents of the district, each representing these groups: (1) civic-oriented service clubs, (2) professional associations, (3) business, commercial, or financial organizations, (4) educational institutions, and (5) women's organizations.
No mention of gender for the representative of women's organizations although they must assume that only members can represent such women's groups since only females can become members of said organizations.
WHAT LWUA MAY ASK BATUHAN. When the Fernandez issue came up in the media ("No ban on Mocha Uson at Owwa or Coping Fernandez at MCWD," Bzzzzz, October 19, 2019), I suggested then that LWUA might ask Fernandez, and later former mayor Garcia, was not whether the nominee was a woman but what women's organization the nominee represented.
NOMINATIONS. The MCWD board's secretary is required by law to solicit and accept nominations from the respective organizations represented in the board. Details of the process are not known but if there are no nominations, the law says, the mayor shall have the right to pick the nominees, obviously those who can represent the interest of the groups listed.
NO DISPUTE AMONG SECTORS. No dispute between or among organizations has been reported even though the area served by MCWD is big and wide and a sector may have several organizations. It's also not known if the other local governments in MCWD's area of service -- such as Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City and Talisay City -- have requested for representation in the water district's board.
The law specifies only the sectors that shall be represented in the board. No process is provided in cases when there are two or more organizations in the same sector or group members reside beyond Cebu City. One time, a director was appointed by the mayor on recommendation of the governor but apparently, the nominee failed to submit the documents LWUA required. But that was rare; almost always the directors come from Cebu City, mostly the mayor's acquaintances or recommendees of his political allies.