THE Tacloban Union of Barangay Officials (TUBO) and Alliance of Water Concessionaires (Alwacon) called on the board of directors of Leyte Metropolitan Water District (LMWD) to resign and obey the Supreme Court (SC) ruling that the mayor of a chartered city may appoint local water district board members if its residents comprise majority of its customers.
TUBO president Noel Tabao in a statement, cited the SC decision on November 23, 2017 upholding its ruling in Mayor Michael Rama, et al. v. Gilbert Moises, et al., promulgated in December 2016 which said that “the Mayor of the City of Cebu is declared to be the appointing authority of the Members of the Board of Directors of the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD).”
The issue stemmed from a case that then Cebu governor and now Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia filed questioning the appointment of Joel Mari Yu to the MCWD board in 2008 by then Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.
In the December 2016 decision penned by Justice Lucas Bersamin, the SC ruled that Section 3(b) of PD 198 should be partially struck down as it contradicted local autonomy granted that the 1987 Constitution granted to local government units and because it was inconsistent with the Local Government Code.
Garcia filed a motion for reconsideration arguing that the high court violated the “principle of hierarchy of courts” and challenged the standing of the petitioners.
The SC, ruling with finality on November 23, 2017, denied the Garcia motion saying that said challenges were “unworthy of consideration,” as all the other issues raised “were already resolved and sufficiently discussed in the assailed decision.”
According to Tabao, “the facts and circumstances surrounding the Cebu City case are applicable to the case of Tacloban that if the majority of the customers of the LMWD come from Tacloban City, then Mayor Cristina Romualdez is authorized to appoint LMWD board members.”
Alwacon Vice President Neptali Fajardo added that aside from resigning, current LMWD board members should put on hold major policy decisions such as its impending partnership with Metro Manila water concessionaire Manila Water.
TUBO and Alwacon had earlier warned residents of possible irregularities should Manila Water be tapped to supply water in the city.
They pointed out that the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System had rejected a total of P85.7 million in media and other expenses Manila Water proposed for their expansion in areas outside Metro Manila. These expenses spent outside concession areas are illegal, the two groups stressed, as the concession agreement with Manila Water requires that its earnings from concession areas should be used only in their respective areas, and prohibits them from using the said funds in other parts of the country.
“If Manila Water is doing this to its Metro Manila customers, what will stop them from doing this to its Tacloban customers? Why will we be paying more for water so we can pay the bill of their expansion projects in Boracay and Clark or even outside the country? Why would the consumers from Tacloban spend for services intended for costumers of other areas?” the groups said.