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MIWD poised to file criminal, administrative raps vs Iloilo City mayor

The Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) is set to file criminal and administrative charges against Iloilo City mayor Jose Espinosa III next week over the appointments — illegally, it asserted — he issued for five individuals as members of the Board of Directors in the last week of May 2018.

This was revealed last night (July 6, 2018) by Atty. Roy Villa, corporate legal counsel of the MIWD, in an interview over my radio program, “Maayong Gab-i, Iloilo” over 89.5 Home Radio and simulcast on Facebook Live.

“The complaints are ready, and we are just waiting for the board resolution authorizing the MIWD general manager to sign them,” Villa said. He expects the authority to be signed by Monday, July 9.

Villa said the MIWD will charge Espinosa with two counts of usurpation of official function and violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 which punishes a public official or employee for causing undue injury to the incumbent board members and giving unwarranted benefits to the five-person board he appointed.

At the same time, Espinosa will be charged administratively for grave misconduct for making these appointments in defiance of an existing court order granting such authority to appoint to Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr.

Villa said the Supreme Court decision handed down on December 16, 2016 which partially struck down Section 3 (b) of PD 198 as it applies to the Metro Cebu Water District and gave it to the City Mayor of Cebu did not create a vacancy in the MIWD board.

“In the first place, the dispositive portion of the decision clearly referred only to the appointing authority for the MCWD,” he said. If ever, Espinosa should have filed a petition in court to reverse the decision of the Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 24 in 2013 that gave such power to the provincial governor of Iloilo, he said.

And even if Espinosa wielded such power, he should have waited for a vacancy to occur, and allowed the MIWD corporate secretary to solicit nominations from the concerned sector, screen the nominees and submit a list for him to choose from, Villa said.

He pointed out that the power to appoint given to local chief executives does not carry with it the power to remove.

“Such power ends after an appointment is issued, and the local chief executive cannot remove any member of the board,” he said.

The incumbent board of directors of MIWD is composed of Teodoro Robles as chairman, Juanito Acanto as vice chairman, Josephine Beata Abad-Caram, Ramon Cua Locsin and Jessica Salas as directors.

Espinosa signed appointments to Ronald Raymund Sebastian (educational sector), Antonio Sangrador (professional associations), Felicito Tiu (business sector), Ray Celis (civic oriented clubs) and Rebecca Maravilla (women’s sector) in the last week of May 2018.

Villa said the MIWD was not even aware about the appointments until it was asked by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) to file a comment on the matter on June 18, 2018.  The MIWD submitted its comment last June 29.

It may be recalled that sometime in December 2017, Espinosa issued a “cease and desist notice” against the incumbent board and demanded that they vacate their positions.

The MIWD board simply ignored the action of Espinosa as it had no enforceability in the first place.

But with the appointments made last May, the MIWD is compelled to take action and protect its interests, Villa said.

Villa is inclined to believe that these actions of Espinosa to forcibly oust the management board of MIWD is being orchestrated by the Villar family, which owns the Prime Water business. Espinosa belongs to the Nacionalista Party which is also led by former Senator and presidential candidate Manny Villar and his wife, incumbent Senator Cynthia Villar.

“It belongs to realm of speculation, but there is basis to believe that,” he said.

 

 

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No vacancy at the MIWD

City Mayor Jose Espinosa III should quickly pull out the appointments he made for the Board of Directors of the Metro Iloilo Water District and reverse his position that the entire five-man board was rendered vacant.
In December 2016, the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional a provision in the Local Water Utility Act (PD 198) that gives the power to appoint members of the BOD to the provincial governor when the number of active users of an HUC fall below 75% as it applied to the Metro Cebu Water District.
The ruling did not create a vacancy in the existing BOD of the MCWD.
What happened was that one seat in the BOD was vacated in December 2016 which was about when the decision came out. That’s because the six-year term of Atty. Manuel Legaspi expired at the end of December 2016. The next month, January 2017, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmena appointed Jose Mari Yu to replace Atty. Legaspi.
Yu is now the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the MCWB.
The other four BOD members whose terms had not expired continued to occupy their board seats and will remain there until their terms expire.
LET ME REPEAT: CEBU CITY MAYOR TOMAS OSMENA APPOINTED ONLY ONE DIRECTOR TO FILL UP ONE VACANCY.
This has been my position since this controversy broke out since last year.
True, the ruling on the MCWD applied to all water districts in the country that are similarly situated. But the Supreme Court ruling did not create a vacancy in the MIWD. It certainly did not happen that way in the case of Cebu City.

Hence, the power of the City Mayor to appoint did not arise as yet. Besides, there are procedures to be followed in the appointment process. For instance, the law requires that when a vacancy occurs, the Board Secretary is required to solicit nominations and submits a short list to the appointing authority.
Before the City Mayor gets into deeper trouble, my advise is for him to recall the appointments. Better to be embarrassed than be knocked out by a suspension on this.
I’m sorry to say this, but Mayor Joe III has gotten bad advice on this. He should be careful about making decisions on matters that can have enormous repercussions.