Court grants 20-day TRO to 3 former MCWD board members

·3 min read

A COURT in Cebu City issued a 20-day temporary restraining order on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, favoring three former members of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) board of directors.

Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7 Judge James Stewart Ramon Himalaloan favored the camp of their lawyer Ralph Sevilla, former City Councilor Augustus Pe Jr. and lawyer Cecilia Adlawan in the case they filed against Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, Acting Administrator Jeci Lapus of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) and former interim board of directors.

Himalaloan states in his two-page resolution that the temporary restraining order (TRO) “shall be effective for a good of twenty days from service on the defendants through their counsels.”

In addition to the TRO, the court also ordered that Sevilla, Pe and Adlawan be restored to their previous positions as directors of the MCWD board while their petition will be heard in the next 20 days in Himalaloan’s sala.

The RTC Branch 7 will hold a hearing at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 18. Petitioners Pe, Sevilla and Adlawan, represented by lawyer Amando Virgil Ligutan, will try to convince the court to favor their petition to grant them a preliminary injunction—an “order granted any stage of an action or proceeding prior to the judgment or final order, requiring a party to refrain from a particular act or acts (chanrobles.com).”

The petition was filed because the camp of Pe, Sevilla and Adlawan believes that a mayor cannot dismiss any board member of a local water district such as MCWD because it has autonomy as declared by Presidential Decree 198.

On March 25, a hearing is set for the respondents. They will be given an opportunity to also present their evidence and convince the court not to grant the injunction.

Ligutan waited for more than a year to get the initial victory in the civil case they filed.

The sheriff of RTC Cebu City will serve the decision.

Pe felt relief with the court’s decision, saying the mayor has no power to fire them.

In October 2019, Labella terminated five board members—then chairman Joel Mari Yu, then vice chairman Sevilla, then secretary Adlawan, and members Pe and Procopio Fernandez—because of a widespread dissatisfaction of MCWD’s consumers over their services.

The cities of Mandaue, Cebu, Talisay, and Lapu-Lapu, and the municipalities of Consolacion, Liloan and Cordova passed resolutions expressing their disappointment with MCWD’s service.

Yu and Fernandez did not join the other former board members in seeking an injunction.

Lapus of the LWUA did not oppose Labella’s desire to terminate the service of the five board members as stated in the mayor’s letter he sent to the LWUA on Sept. 30, 2019.

Labella appointed Jose Daluz III as chairman, replacing Yu.

Lawyer and SunStar Cebu columnist Francisco Malilong Jr. and Miguelito Pato were selected as vice chairman and secretary during an election on Feb. 17, 2020. Lawyer Manolette Dinsay and Judelyn Mae Seno completed the board. (PAC)