Terminated MCWD Board continues to question Labella’s termination order
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The terminated members of the Board of Directors (BOD) of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) will continue to question the termination order of Mayor Edgardo Labella.
The camp of Ralph Sevilla, Augustus Pe, and Cecilia Adlawan, has shown a letter written by the Local Water Utilities Authority (LWUA) to Labella on December 5, 2019, stating that it is not automatic that the appointing authority of a local water utility also has the power to terminate the board.
“Generally, the power to remove is inherent in the power to appoint. However, if the law granting the power to appoint explicitly states otherwise, the general rule does not apply,” said Jeci Lapus, the acting administrator of LWUA.
“In fine, the power of the Mayor of the City of Cebu to appoint under Section 3 of Presidential Decree 198 does not carry with it the power to terminate the members of the Board of Directors of the MCWD. Otherwise put, this case is an exception to the said general rule,” Lapus said.
In the letter, LWUA further said that Labella did not follow due process because the termination was done without notice for the hearing and did not give the terminated board a chance to answer the accusation against them.
“Based on the documents we gathered, we could not find any indication that the requirements of administrative due process were complied with. It is, therefore, our presumption that the subject MCWD members were not notified and given the opportunity to explain their side.
“Foregoing considered, we regret to state that the termination of the MCWD directors is not in accordance with the aforecited provisions of PD 198 and DILG MC (Department of Interior and Local Government Memorandum Circulation) No. 2019-03,” said Lapus.
However, in the same letter, LWUA still ruled to terminate the MCWD board because of the expression of dissatisfaction of eight local government units (LGUs) including Cebu City, Talisay City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, Cordova, Consolacion, Liloan, and Compostela, which are all served by the MCWD.
“Wherefore, foregoing premises considered, this office leaves no other recourse but to cause their termination to save the MCWD from further public disgrace and to regain public trust to MCWD,” said Lapus.
Lawyer Amando Virgil Ligutan, the legal counsel of the three terminated MCWD Board, said the letter was a clear indication that Labella violated the law when he terminated the board before issuing a notice for a hearing.
“He is caught violating the law red-handed. As a lawyer and former Ombudsman director, it is unconscionable for Mayor Labella to violate the law and due process. We will hold him accountable for that,” said Ligutan in a text message to media.
The terminated BOD camp also questioned the validity of the appointments made by Labella for a new BOD.
Even the LWUA has not approved the appointment of former mayor, Alvin Garcia, Lawyer Francisco “Frank” Malilong Jr., former Cebu City Councilor Jose Daluz III, Lawyer Manolette Dinsay and Miguelito “Mike” Pato.
Ligutan said the terminated board members were determined to file charges against Labella in court for his violation of the law.
“We will fight this to the end. We will prosecute those who violated the law to the fullest extent we can. We will file all administrative and criminal cases available,” said Ligutan.
Labella remained unfazed by the statements of the terminated board.
“Go ahead. Let them go ahead,” he said. /dbs
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