Cebu City backs out of legal battle over MCWD
CEBU CITY, Philippines – The Cebu City Government, under the administration of Mayor Michael Rama, has decided to withdraw from the ongoing legal battle involving former executives of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD).
The City Legal Office has recently filed a manifestation before Branch 17 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Cebu City. In it, the city expressed its intentions that it will no longer be defending the injunction case that seeks to stop the reinstatement of three former board members of the MCWD, who were terminated in 2019.
A three-page copy of the manifestation was sent to members of the media.
It was submitted before Branch 17 of Cebu City RTC on July 14, 2022, and signed by City Legal Officer Eugene Orbita and lawyer Ferdinand Cañete.
According to the manifestation, Rama decided ‘not to adopt or continue, and is not adopting or continuing the action of his predecessor’, the late Mayor Edgardo Labella.
It can be recalled that Labella, when he was elected as the city mayor in 2019, fired five board members of the MCWD.
They were Joel Mari Yu (chairperson), Ralph Sevilla (vice-chairperson), Cecilia Adlawan (secretary), Procopio Fernandez (member), and Augustus Pe (member).
All terminated MCWD board members were appointees of his political opponent, former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.
Labella’s decision to sack several top officials of MCWD, reportedly for ‘lack of satisfactory performance’, triggered a series of court battles from both parties.
The Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) then intervened and formed an interim board before the late mayor’s new appointees took office in February 2020.
They are lawyers Jose ‘Joey’ Daluz III, who currently serves as its chairperson, lawyer and columnist Francisco Malilong Jr., Engr. Miguelito Pato, lawyer Manolette Dinsay, and ex-City Hall human resource executive Jodelyn May Seno.
The latest development in the string of legal actions was in March 2021 when Branch 7 of the Cebu City RTC ordered the reinstatement of Yu, Sevilla, and Adlawan.
The three former MCWD board members accused Labella of giving them the boot ‘without any valid cause, without due process and with evident bad faith’, and sought help from the judiciary in getting their posts back.
However, then Presiding Judge James Steward Ramon Himalaloan decided to inhibit the case following ‘allegations and innuendos’ from Labella’s camp.
As a result, the case was reassigned to Branch 17, which recently asked the new administration whether they want to pursue it.
CDN Digital has reached out to Rama for his comments as of this writing.
Lawyer Amando Virgil Ligutan, legal counsel of Sevilla and Adlawan, welcomed the decision of the city government to back out in defending the injunction case filed by Labella’s administration.
“This is the latest plot twist of the MCWD board room drama. The current mayor is expressing he is not adopting what former Mayor Labella did. This means Mayor Rama does not agree with then-mayor Labella’s termination of MCWD directors Ralph Sevilla, Augustus Pe, Jr., and Cecilia Adlawan,” said Ligutan.
Ligutan also said this served as a ‘very positive development’ in their goal of having the former MCWD executives reinstated.
The lawyer, however, begged off not to disclose their next steps.
“We won’t telegraph our punches, but surely we will act accordingly,” he added.
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