THE Cebu City Legal Office (CLO) wants the judge who issued the temporary restraining order (TRO) against the dismissal of the previous board of directors of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) to inhibit from the case.
The CLO filed the motion during the hearing conducted in Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7 Judge James Stewart Ramon Himalaloan’s sala on Thursday, March 18, 2021, in which the parties were supposed to argue their case.
City Attorney Rey Gealon said they want the case raffled to another court branch.
“We are most respectfully praying for the Honorable Presiding Judge to voluntarily inhibit from further handling this case and have the same raffled to another branch of the court to resolve our Motion for Reconsideration and recall of the TRO dated 15 March 2021 as well as resolve our Motion To Dismiss for lack of cause of action and lack of jurisdiction,” Gealon said in a statement.
Lack of urgency
One of the points raised by the City was that there was no urgency for the issuance of the TRO, considering that it has been more than a year since the filing of the complaint.
“If there was truly any urgency to the application for TRO and/or injunction even at the time when the complaint was first filed in court, the court would have acted on the ex-parte 72-hour TRO application of the plaintiffs,” Gealon pointed out.
“However, no ex-parte TRO was granted and the same presiding judge chose to dismiss the complaint and caused its raffle to RTC-Branch 11 in the 14 November 2019 hearing intended for the 20-day TRO application. There is thus no pressing urgency to the application for TRO back in November 2019 and more so now, a year and four months after the fact,” he stated.
Amando Virgil Ligutan, legal counsel of the dismissed MCWD board of directors, said the CLO’s move came as a surprise to them, considering there is no ground for the motion of inhibition.
“Simple, this is a case of a disgruntled party who was given to argue their case in court, and who in fact, argued their case in court, but the court found their arguments wanting. That’s why the TRO was granted in favor of my clients. So they did not like the decision. That’s why they wanted the judge to inhibit from the case,” he said.
Ligutan said the 20-day TRO remains. It will expire after 20 days if the judge will not grant a preliminary injunction, he said.
This was the reason the judge called for a hearing so both sides could present their case and only then could the judge decide whether to extend the TRO.
“Impartial, neutral, fair”
But with the motion of inhibition filed by the defendants, the plaintiffs will have to comment on the motion and only then will the judge rule whether to continue handling the case.
Ligutan, though, believes the judge will not inhibit himself.
“The judge has been impartial. The judge has been neutral. The judge has been fair to both parties,” he said.
The 20-day TRO was issued on March 15, which favored the camp of dismissed MCWD directors Ralph Sevilla, former City Councilor Augustus Pe Jr. and Cecilia Adlawan in the case they filed against Mayor Edgardo Labella, Acting Administrator Jeci Lapus of the Local Water Utilities Administration and the former interim board of directors.
The TRO ordered that Sevilla, Pe and Adlawan be reinstated and members of the present board of directors “cease and desist” from their duties in the next 20 days. (JJL)