Rama wants out of court case, opposed MCWD board’s firing

·3 min read

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama has ordered his lawyers to manifest before the court that the City no longer has any interest in defending itself in an injunction case to reverse the decision of the late mayor Edgardo Labella to terminate three Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) board members in 2019.

An injunction is a court order requiring a person or party to do or stop doing a specific action.

City Attorney Eugene Orbita and lawyer Ferdinand Cañete filed a manifestation informing Branch 17 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Cebu City that Rama “decides not to adopt or contin ue and is not adopting or continuing the action of his predecessor.”

In October 2019, then-mayor Labella issued a notice of termination to five members of MCWD’s board of directors (BOD), citing dissatisfaction over their services by majority of the water utility’s consumers.

The five were then chairman Joel Mari Yu, former Cebu City councilors Procopio “Coping” Fernandez and Augustus “Jun” Pe Jr., former city attorney Ralph Sevilla and lawyer Cecile Adlawan, who served as board secretary.

Following their termination, the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) designated an interim board on Oct. 22, 2019, composed of respondents Roberto San Andres, Eileen dela Vega and Christina Marcelina.

Three of the terminated board members—Sevilla, Pe and Adlawan—filed a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and injunction against Labella and officials of the LWUA on Nov. 8, 2019.

The complainants argued that Labella’s act of terminating them had been done “without any valid cause and without due process,” as well as “with evident bad faith” as the three complainants were appointees of Labella’s political opponent, former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña.

New board

On Feb. 17, 2020, former South Road Properties manager Jose Daluz III, lawyer and SunStar Cebu columnist Francisco Malilong Jr. and engineer Miguelito Pato started their duties as the new chairman, vice chairman and secretary of MCWD, respectively, replacing the interim BOD that LWUA had formed. Lawyer Manolette Dinsay and human resource practitioner Jodelyn May Seno completed the new board.

On March 16, 2021, RTC Branch 7 Judge James Steward Ramon Himalaloan reinstated Sevilla, Pe and Adlawan by virtue of a 20-day TRO.

A month after the release of the TRO, Himalaloan inhibited himself from handling the petition for injunction filed by the complainants, citing “false accusations and innuendos” made by Labella through his lawyers.

Following the death of Labella in November 2021 and the election of Rama as the new mayor of the city, the court asked the new chief executive whether he would maintain the act of then-mayor Labella to the pending suit.

Not in favor

In an interview Wednesday, July 20, 2022, Rama told SunStar Cebu that he was not in favor of Labella’s act of terminating the board directors.

Rama said he does not want his name or even the city government to be part of the case.

“Dili lang ko moapil, and I would not want the city government under my stewardship to be a part of the case because at the beginning of the outset, conviction- and principle-wise, I was not in favor,” said Rama.

Being the new mayor of the city, Rama said he has the right to instruct the City Legal Office “to get the City out of the case.”

Lawyer Armando Virgil Ligutan, legal counsel of the complainants, said Rama’s manifestation “is the latest plot twist of the MCWD boardroom drama.”

Ligutan said Rama’s expression of not adopting what the late mayor Labella did means that Rama does not agree with the termination of Sevilla, Pe and Adlawan.

Asked about their next move, Ligutan said, “We won’t telegraph our punches, but surely we will act accordingly.”

Ligutan said it is now up to the remaining defendants—LWUA acting administrator Jeci Lapus, San Andres, Dela Vega and Marcelina—if they want to pursue the case now that the city government has already withdrawn its interest in the case.

Ligutan said their camp aims for the complete reinstatement of Sevilla, Pe and Adlawan. (With CTL)

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