MCWD board row: Late Mayor Labella’s termination of directors questioned
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Lawyer Amando Virgil Ligutan, legal counsel of the previous Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD), questioned the validity of the termination of the previous MCWD board members by the late Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella in 2019.
Ligutan questioned the authority under which the late Mayor Labella terminated the previous directors if local executives did not have the power to do so.
Termination of board questioned
“Kung niingon [ang] LWUA karon nga ang mayor sa Sugbo dili ka terminate sa board sa MCWD, si Rama, dili daw ka terminate, nganong na terminate man ni Labella si MCWD directors Pe, Adlawan, and Sevilla?” Ligutan asked during the press conference on Wednesday, Novermber 8.
(If LWUA now said that the mayor of Cebu City cannot terminate the board of MCWD, Rama, cannot terminate, then why did Labella terminate the MCWD directors Pe, Adlawan, and Sevilla?)
In 2019, the late Labella terminated Augustus Pe Jr., Ralph Sevilla, and Cecilia Adlawan, citing dissatisfaction on the part of consumers regarding MCWD’s service.
They filed a case in court. They were issued a favorable injunction by a Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7 in Cebu City. Nonetheless, the court later dismissed their complaints.
Ligutan has stated that they filed a Supreme Court petition, which is currently pending in court.
Moreover, Ligutan said that he wanted to hold a press conference on the matter as he could “not stomach the duplicity” of the personalities involved.
Ligutan added that the duplicity was just “unfathomable.”
Singing a different tune
“Dili ko kadawat. Just because your trabaho is on the line you are singing a different tune,” Ligutan said.
( I could not accept it. Just because your work is on the line you are singing a different tune.)
Ligutan said that even Rama filed a manifestation in the court through the city legal office, stating that he did not conform to what Labella did.
Ligutan reiterated Presidential Decree 198 that when a water district is formed, the local government or governments concerned shall lose ownership, supervision, and control or any right whatsoever over the district.
Pursuant to this provision, in Section 7 of PD 198, a local chief executive does not have the authority to remove the chairperson and members of the Board of Directors of the water district.
“So unsa amo gusto? Amo gusto lang is mag klarohay ta. Klaro ang balaod, the mayor cannot terminate. So kung inyohang pag occupy now sa position is the termination of the previous board, delikadesa siguro no, you think twice. Is it worth pursuing?” Ligutan said.
(So what do we want? What we want is to be clear on this. The law is clear, the mayor cannot terminate. So if you are occupying the position now is the [cause] of the termination of the previous board, that is delicadesa, you think twice. Is it worth pursuing.)
Letter from LWUA valid
Ligutan claimed that during the termination of the previous board members, the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) agreed to it without any investigation; hence, the removal of the board members in 2019.
Ligutan also said that the letter from LWUA was legally valid since it was duly signed by the administrator and legal counsel.
“Unsay board of trustees? Naay administrator of LWUA. He is the head. Naay legal department, the legal counsel signed. Unsay board? The head of LWUA is the administrator,” Ligutan said, disproving what Lawyer Jerone Castillo on November 7, when he claimed that the letter of LWUA has “no legal weight.”
(What board of trustees? There is the administrator of LWUA. He is the head. There is a the legal department, the legal counsel signed. What board? The head of the LWUA is the administrator.)
Ligutan clarified that the previous board members: Pe, Sevilla, and Adlawan were not fighting to regain the position but sought vindication and justice.
“Ang akong pangutana, why are these individuals so hold up in MCWD [that] it is as if they are fighting for their lives. It’s only the position, unsa man naa sa MCWD nga maglisod man sila ug hawa diha?” Ligutan expressed.
(My question is why are these individuals so hold up in MCWD [that] it is as if they are fighting for their lives. It’s only the position, what is in MCWD that it is difficult for them to leave?)
Meanwhile, Lawyer Jose Daluz III, the present chairman of MCWD, said he would let the side of Ligutan do what they thought “right and proper”.
In a separate press conference on the same day, Daluz cited the termination of the late Labella in 2019 and Rama’s recent appointment was not the same since the removal of the previous board members was recommended by LWUA.
“It was not only an action of Labella. It was an action of eight LGUs, nagpasar ug resolution to Labella to remove the [board members],” Daluz said.
The eight local government units Daluz mentioned were Cordova, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Talisay, Cebu City, Liloan, Consolacion, and the Province of Cebu.
“It was not Cebu City alone, but it was supported by all stakeholders of MCWD [LGUs],” he said.
Resolution to LWUA
According to Daluz, when Labella submitted the resolution to LWUA, LWUA created an interim board while investigating the allegations pertaining to the previous board.
“After that [investigation] LWUA decided na ma-remove sila (that they will be removed), not because the Mayor has the authority to remove, but because of the decision of LWUA,” Daluz said.
“There is no new board. Kita man ta nga naay (We saw that there was a) LWUA decision that we were not removed, therefore, the appointment of mayor [Rama] is illegal or invalid,” Daluz said.
Moreover, Daluz claimed that the Cebu City mayor was “double-standard” as he submitted a request for a certificate of no objection to LWUA, and now that the LWUA has answered, he would not follow.
“Since wala pa man sila’y (they still have no) [newly-appointed board members’] confirmation, they cannot assume the duty of a board director,” Daluz said.
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