Cebu News

LWUA intervention for public’s ‘best interest’

Iris Hazel Mascardo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — With the suspension of General Manager Edgar Donoso and assumption of Atty. John Dx Lapid as his replacement for 90 days, Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) chairman Ronnie Ong assured Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) clients that as regulator, LWUA simply has the best interest of the public in mind.

“The Cebu City local government itself has declared a water crisis already. And with all the issues that surround MCWD, LWUA is merely making sure that the water crisis in Cebu will be addressed properly and timely,” he said.

“Again, LWUA is merely exercising our mandate as regulator to fix MCWD. Wala po itong personalan at wala dapat na personalan. The partial intervention is about LWUA and MCWD – not about any individual, certainly not about any public official. This is ultimately for the Cebuano people we serve. Ginagawa ng LWUA ang mandato nito at di na dapat pa magkaroon ng delaying tactics dito,” Ong said.

As mandated under Presidential Decree 198 (The Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973), LWUA has the power to take over the operations of water utility firms outside Metro Manila to ensure the delivery of services, to protect the interest of consumers.

Last March 15, LWUA implemented a partial takeover in MCWD, in accordance with a LWUA Board of Trustees resolution, and installed an Interim Board composed of LWUA officials Maria Rosan D. Perez, Engineer Noel A. Samonte, and Engineer Anabelle C. Gravador.

Last Friday, the Interim Board added Cebuanos Rey Asterio L. Tambis and Atty. Manolette Fel E. Dinsay, a former MCWD BOD member, to its membership, after suspending Donoso for “continuing defiance” of the Interim Board’s instructions, and appointing Lapid, who until then headed the MCWD Customer Care Division.

In particular, Donoso was also charged with “connivance” in allegedly planning to bar the Interim Board access to MCWD offices and facilities.

Yesterday, Ong assured that the recent development would not affect MCWD’s delivery of services to the people of Cebu especially during this El Niño season.

“LWUA is taking these measures because we do not want any services of MCWD to be hampered during the partial intervention,” LWUA Administrator Jose Moises Salonga also said in support of Ong’s statement.

The LWUA has again requested for police assistance to safeguard the MCWD premises while the Interim Board passed another resolution last Friday barring the current BOD members from entering the water utility firm’s premises.

Resolution No. 10 Series of 2024 approved last Friday, April 12, stated that Donoso’s and the “suspended Board of Directors’” alleged “persistent defiance” of LWUA’s authority could escalate to “violence, potentially compromising the safety and security of personnel and stakeholders involved”.

“To safeguard MCWD operations, maintain peace and order, ensure unhampered access ot facilities, and alleviate the effects of the water crisis in Cebu City, continuous police assistance is necessary,” the Interim Board said.

The board resolution requested a 24/7 police presence at MCWCD’s main offices, branches, and facilities from April 12 onwards, until further notice.

The Interim Board also requested that the police prevent Donoso; MCWD BOD Chairman Jose L. Daluz, III; and BOD members Miguelito C. Pato and Jodelyn May G. Seño from entering MCWD’s premises to “prevent any interference in the operations and directives of the Interim Board”.


Meanwhile, in a related development, the Office of the City Prosecutor has dismissed the usurpation complaints filed by lawyers and MCWD BOD members Earl Bonachita and Danilo Ortiz against Daluz, Seno, and Pato.

In a March 7, 2024 resolution, Assistant City Prosecutor Lei Maura Babatuan said it is still “premature at this stage” for the court to resolve Bonachita and Ortiz’s complaint that Daluz, Seno, and Pato usurped functions, “as if they still constituted as the standing MCWD Board of Directors” despite their removal by Mayor Mike Rama last Oct. 31.

“Under Presidential Decree No. 242, all disputes and claims solely between government agencies and offices, including government-owned or controlled corporations, shall be administratively settled or adjudicated by the Secretary of Justice, the Solicitor General, or the Government Corporate Counsel, depending on the issues and government agencies involved,” read a portion of the 14-page resolution.

 “(W)ithout delving on the merits whether or not Usurpation of Authority or Official Functions under Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code is present, as it is premature at this stage, the two (2) Complaints against the Respondents, JOSE C. DALUZ III, MIGUELITO G. PATO, and JODELYN MAY G. SENO, are DISMISSED, without prejudice,” it added.

“There are two conflicting point of views on how the law should be interpreted and applied, and this Office is not in the position to make sense as to what the relevant provisions of Presidential Decree No. 198 ought to mean, especially on the power to remove,” it further read.

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