Bzzzzz: The letters LWUA sent to Labella on firing MCWD directors

* 'STOP THIS XENOPHOBIA THING.' That's President Rodrigo Duterte's order Tuesday (February 4) to the nation. Concern over one's health and safety and that of one's community and nation becomes xenophobic when it escalates into hostility, hate and disrespect to Chinese nationals.

* DUTERTE TO RELY ON W.H.O. The President said the ban in the Philippines would depend upon the advice of the World Health Organization. Something like a chain: mayors and governors to depend on central authority -- meaning, the president and national agencies -- and central in turn looking up to W.H.O. for guidance of measures the government would take against coronavirus. And W.H.O. earlier said travel and trade restrictions have their disadvantages.

Letters as evidence

How many letters did the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) send to Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella regarding the October 15, 2019 termination of five directors of Metropolitan Cebu Water District?

We may count them, as far as news reports tell us:

* One, the October 1, 2019 letter that answered Mayor Labella's letter "in September" asking whether he could dismiss the then incumbent directors. Labella called it "the no-objection" letter.

* Two, the October 24, 2019 letter that "issued a notice for explanation on the subjects of the termination."

* Three, the December 5, 2019 letter that the mayor had no automatic authority to fire the directors and he did not give them a chance to answer the accusation against them.

The letters apparently form the evidentiary basis of former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña in his complaint for usurpation of authority and grave misconduct against Labella and LWUA acting manager Jeci Lapuz, which Tomas filed Monday (February 3) with the office of the deputy ombudsman.

The theory of Tomas's case is one of conspiracy: that both Labella and Lapuz connived to illegally dismiss the MCWD directors, four of whom were Osmeña appointees, and appoint Labella's nominees in their stead.

Two out of 5 directors

The controversy that hounds the October 15, 2019 changing of directors -- who decide policies on the crucial issue of water shortage -- seems not to have left yet.

Even the appointment of two out of five directors by Labella has hit a snag at the LWUA. Nominations of former Cebu City mayor Alvin Garcia and Manolette Dinsay were reportedly questioned by LWUA, which administers the water district. It wants a woman for Atty. Alvin's seat and a representative of "civic-oriented" clubs for Atty. Dinsay's seat. Alvin said he has accepted LWUA's ruling, while Dinsay was expected to submit the papers required.

The women's rep

Interestingly, on the requirement for the women's sector rep in the MCWD board, Presidential Decree #198 (Section 8, Chapter III on Directors) provides for, among others, "one member a representative of women's organizations." The law does not require a female person, just a representative of women's groups. Meaning, the women's groups may nominate anyone, male or female, although that would be highly unlikely.

Nomination process

Under the law (Section 10), the MCWD secretary is required to solicit nominations from each sector listed for the position of director that would be vacant by December 31 of each year.

The situation for this new set of directors was created by an emergency. We don't know if the procedure was followed. But what LWUA is obviously interested in is the basic minimum of the requirement, which is that each nominee is endorsed by the sector he or she is supposed to represent. On women's sector though, it wants a woman. The seat for ex-mayor Alvin was previously occupied by another male, Procopio Fernandez, who succeeded a woman, Joy Pesquera.

What the law didn't consider is that one sector several groups under it: which group has the right to submit a nominee? Maybe as many groups that are willing to do so, with the mayor picking the person he will nominate to LWUA.

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