Case vs mayor won't disrupt MCWD services, LWUA says

DAY-TO-DAY operations of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) will not be affected after the MCWD Board of Directors (BOD) filed a complaint against Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella and some Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) officials.

MCWD spokesperson Charmaine Rodriguez-Kara assured that the services of MCWD will “go on as usual,” adding that the BOD is not part of the water district’s daily operations.

She also made it clear that they have not received any communication from the interim board the LWUA formed after the mayor fired five BOD members and after BOC chairman Joel Mari Yu resigned.

Yu stepped down as chairman on Oct. 21, 2019, effective immediately. Eugenio Singson Jr. also resigned as general manager, effective Nov. 1.

On Friday, Nov. 8, three of the four remaining members of the BOD filed a petition for a temporary restraining order and injunction against Labella and officials of LWUA before the Regional Trial Court in Cebu City.

Labella issued notices of termination against the five BOD members on Oct. 15 following widespread dissatisfaction of the water utility’s consumers over their services for the past few months. The LWUA installed an interim board to replace them.

The old BOD was composed of Yu as chairman, Ralph Sevilla as vice chairman, Cecilia Adlawan as secretary and Procopio Fernandez and Augustus Pe Jr. as members.

Listed as plaintiffs in the complaint against Labella and LWUA officials are Pe, Sevilla and Adlawan, in their official and personal capacities, and the MCWD represented by its BOD.

Acting MCWD General Manager Stephen Yee is not a plaintiff, contrary to what was reported earlier.

The BOD, in its official statement, questioned Labella’s order, emphasizing that the termination was done “without both substantive and procedural due process.”

Its members asked the court to prevent the implementation of the termination order, the operational takeover by the LWUA interim board and to stop the “harassing, intimidating and using (of) force in abuse of their authority in their quest to implement/enforce or in their continuing effort to implement and execute the herein mentioned illegal orders.”

The BOD also asked the court to order the respondents and other concerned officials to observe the status quo ante and let it continue its functions.

The BOD wants the respondents to pay each plaintiff P1 million as moral damages.

Listed as respondents are Labella, the LWUA, LWUA Acting Administrator Jeci Lapus and LWUA employees designated as MCWD’s interim BOD: Roberto San Andres, chairman; and Eileen dela Vega and Cristina Marcelina, members.

Labella said he would file his answer once he was directed to do so “at the proper time and at the proper forum.”

“Once I am directed to file my answer, my counter-affidavit, may it be a criminal complaint, an administrative complaint, I will file my answer. If it’s a civil case, I will file my answer. I will prepare the necessary controverting evidence as part of the due process,” said Labella.

City Attorney Rey Gealon said they had been ready even before the complainants filed a case against the mayor.

“The law is on our side. We have nothing to fear,” said Gealon. JJL