LWUA claims Rama has no authority to remove MCWD directors
Cebu City Legal officer says LWUA decision has 'no legal weight'
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Lawyer Jerone Castillo, the former city legal office chief and now city budget and finance officer, said that the letter from the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) did not hold “any legal weight”; hence, still making Mayor Michael Rama’s appointment of new directors lawful and valid.
Castillo, together with Lawyer Collin Rosell, the city administrator, debunked the statement of LWUA, claiming that the Mayor had no authority to remove the chairperson and members of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD).
Communication to LWUA
“As early as August 17, we sent a communication to LWUA, wala na aksyoni, wala na aksyoni. Ang petsa sa letter October 17, so it took them several days to analyze. There was already an appointment of the new board that was effective on October 31, so kining na transmit na letter, way late na,” Castillo said during the press conference on Tuesday, November 7.
(As early as August 17, we sent a communication to LWUA, no action was done on it, there was no action done. The date of the letter was October 17, so it took them several days to analyze. There was already an appointment of the new board that was effective on October 31, so this letter that was transmitted was way late.)
Castillo claimed to have received the letter through his secretary on November 6 via electronic email.
LWUA clarifies stance
In a letter dated October 17, LWUA clarified its stance on the request for the issuance of a certificate of no objection regarding the appointment of a new MCWD board that the local executives had no authority to remove the chairperson and members of the board of directors of MCWD.
The letter further stated that there was no legal basis to issue the certificate.
Legality of letter questioned
According to Castillo, he questioned the legality of the letter as it was not issued by the chairperson of LWUA, to whom he had initially addressed his request on August 17. Instead, it was signed by the administrator.
“Ang klaro pagkastorya ani, when we wrote the letter on August 17, it was not addressed to the LWUA administrator. It was addressed to the board through the chairman. Kay ngano man? Kanang LWUA collegial body mana so ang gikahibulngan nga Mayor Mike nga ngano ang letter na gi address sa board, gitubag man og lahi nga tawo?” Castillo said.
(What is clear here is when we wrote the letter on August 17, it was not addressed to the LWUA administrator. It was addressed to the board through the chairman. Why? LWUA is a collegial body so Mayor Mike wondered as to why the letter addressed to the board was answered by another person?)
LWUA, as a collegial body, means that the institution in which the decisions are taken not arbitrarily by the head of the institution, but by a group of persons by a majority vote.
With this, Castillo mentioned that the letter was just a “mere” opinion and did not carry other legal weight.
Furthermore, Castillo said that the contents of the letter might create additional confusion as they appeared to contradict the decision of the previous board of directors followed during their appointments in 2020.
“Kani lang daan no, it raises another concern by me. Ngano man? Kinsa man diay ga appoint ni Joey Daluz? Ni Pato ug kanang Seno? Dili ba diay local executive chief at the time? It was the late mayor Labella,” Castillo said.
(This raises a concern by me. Why? Who then appointed Joey Daluz? Pato and that Seno? Is it not the local chief executive at that time? It was the late mayor Labella.)
“If you’re saying that the local executive [Labella] has no authority to appoint Daluz, Pato, and Seno, e di dapat manganaog nana sila (then they should all step down),” he added.
No letter from LWUA signed by chairman of board
Moreover, Lawyer Collin Rosell asserted that they had not received the official letter from LWUA that was duly signed by the chairman of the board.
“So wala ta kahibawo if tinuod ba ni [letter] or kining mga perma tinuod ba ni. Wa pa gyuy kopya nga nadawat ang syudad sa Sugbo, ang City Legal Office until this time coming from LWUA,” Rosell said.
(So we do not know if this is genuine [letter] or the signatures are genuine. The city of Cebu, the City Legal Office until this time had not received a copy coming from LWUA.)
Despite the letter from LWUA, Castillo confirmed that it would not affect the function of the newly appointed MCWD directors.
“Definitely, dili gyud na makaapekto. Again, the action of the mayor is legal; it is based on solid grounds, legal angle jud na siya,” Castillo said.
(Definitely, that cannot affect it. Again, the action of the mayor is legal; it is based on solid grounds, that is legal angle.)
New directors to honor Rama’s appointment
Meanwhile, Mel Feliciano, the newly appointed chairman of the MCWD, said the new directors would still honor the appointment of Rama despite the statement of LWUA.
Feliciano said it would continue focusing on performing their functions and improving the water supply in its franchise area.
“The legal matter is being addressed. It is not more of our concern,” Felciano said.
Daluz: Decision ‘crystal clear’
On the other hand, Lawyer Jose Daluz III released a press statement on Tuesday evening, November 7, in response to the letter from LWUA, stating that the decision on the matter was “crystal clear.”
“I hold in high regard and acknowledge this resolve. It emphasizes the pivotal role played by LWUA, where the administration of water districts falls under its jurisdiction, subject to well-established legal procedure and regulations,” Daluz said.
Daluz further stated that the MCWD, under his leadership, would continue to uphold the highest standards in water supply management.
“I appreciate the clear guidance provided by LWUA. This will allow MCWD to carry out its duties effectively in serving the Cebuano public,” Daluz said.
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