Usurpation of authority case vs Daluz, 2 others dismissed

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

THE Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor (OCCP) has dismissed the Usurpation of Authority case against Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) chairman Jose Daluz III and two others due to lack of merit.

This was confirmed by Daluz in a press conference on Monday, April 15, 2024.

On January 31, 2024, MCWD board members Earl Bonachita and Danilo Ortiz charged Daluz, Miguelito Pato, and Jodelyn May Seno of Usurpation of Authority for allegedly continuing to conduct business despite being removed from their positions.

On October 31, 2023, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama replaced Daluz, Pato, and Seno with Melquiades Feliciano, Nelson Yuvallos, and Aristotle Batuhan.

On October 17, 2023, the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) said in a letter: “local executives have no authority to remove the chairperson and members of the board of directors of a water district,” which the Cebu City Legal Office’s request for certificate of no objection.

The letter has been the basis of Daluz’s camp to be the legitimate board of directors of the MCWD. Yet, the City Government would argue they were legally terminated, saying the power of the mayor to appoint come with the power to remove.

Weighing the evidence presented by both parties, the OCCP found that there is a need to interpret some relevant provisions of the Presidential Decree 198, the law that governs the creation of a water district before Daluz and two other may be held criminally liable for Usurpation of Authority.

The OCCP believed that its office is not in the position to shed light on the provisions of PD 198, particularly on the power to remove.

The OCCP said disputes between government agencies and offices shall be administratively settled or adjudicated whether by the Secretary of Justice, Solicitor General, or Government Corporate Counsel under PD 242.

The OCCP also believed that both parties have opposing stances on some provisions of the PD 198, which became the source of their squabble on who composes the duly constituted members of the BOD.

Citing Section 3 (b) of the PD 198, OCCP believed the power to appoint has been expressly established.

“In the event that more than 75 percent of the total active service connections of a local water district are within the boundary any city or municipality, the appointing authority shall be the mayor of that city or municipality…” the provision stated.

However, as to who has the power to remove, PD 198 did not expressly state where it belongs, the OCCP emphasized.

“Directors may be removed for just cause only, subject to review and approval of the administration,” Section 11 of the PD 198 stated, as amended by the Section 5 of PD 768.

The word “administration” refers to the LWUA, the OCCP highlighted.

The OCCP said the absence of explicit provision regarding on who has the power to remove the members of the board has been the crux of the controversy between the opposing camps. (AML)


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