City seeks dismissal of axed MCWD directors’ complaint

THE Cebu City Legal Office (CLO) has filed a motion to dismiss the case filed by former board members of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) against Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella.

In the motion filed by the CLO before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Dec. 26, 2019, it sought the dismissal of the Complaint for Declaration of Nullity of Notice of Termination, Local Water Utility Administration’s (LWUA) Designation of Interim Board of Directors with Urgent Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and Injunction filed by three dismissed members of the MCWD board of directors (BOD) on Nov. 8.

City Attorney Rey Gealon said the move for dismissal comes from the grounds that LWUA has original and exclusive jurisdiction over the case and the former board members have no cause of action against Mayor Labella because their complaint was prematurely filed before the LWUA could review the termination order.

“For if they insist on their claim to remain as board members, despite the explicit affirmation of LWUA of the Mayor’s Termination Order against them, then the court ought to dismiss this case,” said Gealon.

Gealon explained that plaintiffs Ralph Sevilla, Augustus Pe Jr. and Cecilia Adlawan should have sought LWUA’s guidance as the administration has the “specialized knowledge to adjudicate on the claims of the plaintiffs since the removal of directors of local water districts falls within their statutory powers to the exclusion of the courts including the Civil Service Commission.”

Even the issue on the alleged violation of due process, although cognizable by the regular courts, must be resolved by the LWUA since it is vested with rule-making powers and has the mandate to promulgate its own rules of procedure, said Gealon.

On the issue that the dismissed MCWD board members prematurely filed the complaint to the court, Gealon said that “an action commenced before the cause of action has accrued is prematurely brought and should be dismissed.”

“An action prematurely brought is a groundless suit,” said Gealon.

In the Nov. 8 complaint against Labella and LWUA officials, listed as plaintiffs were the MCWD BOD namely Pe, Sevilla and Adlawan, in their official and personal capacities, and the MCWD represented by its BOD who are also the plaintiffs.

Days after the LWUA finalized its decision to terminate the services of the MCWD board members, MCWD withdrew its civil case filed before the RTC Branch 7 on Dec. 16.

The LWUA made its final decision supporting the termination of the remaining MCWD board members on Dec. 5.

The dismissed MCWD board members were given a chance to respond to the termination notices issued to them, but they did not respond to the LWUA’s letter sent to them last Nov. 15.

Last Oct. 15, Labella issued notices of termination against the five members of MCWD’s board of directors, including chairman Joel Mari Yu and director Procopio Fernandez, following “widespread dissatisfaction” from a majority of the water utility’s consumers over their services in the past months.

Days after Labella issued the termination order, Yu stepped down as board chairman on Oct. 21. Fernandez, an ally of Vice Mayor Michael Rama, who is in turn an ally of Mayor Labella, did not resign, but he did not join the Nov. 8 complaint. (JJL)