Water district warfare: Takeovers, ‘politicking,’ standoffs at Cebu water firm

John Sitchon

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Water district warfare: Takeovers, ‘politicking,’ standoffs at Cebu water firm

RIFT. The conflict at the Metropolitan Cebu Water District became more complicated when Cebu mayors, led by Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, joined the fray.


'We feel like we’ve been deprived of our own office,' an employee of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) says

In war, there are no real victors. Only proxies and casualties. 

For Cebu, it appears that the employees and customers of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) have become hostages to the ongoing battle among politicians and officials seeking to challenge one another for the leadership of the water firm.

The latest casualty? Lawyer John Dx Lapid, who resigned from the position of MCWD General Manager. 

“I want to have peace, my family is affected already with all that is happening. I am stressed. I am being used for politics already,” Lapid said in a now-edited Facebook post on Tuesday morning, April 16.

When asked why he took out the “being used for politics” part of his post, Lapid told Rappler that the statement can still stand on its own. The lawyer refused to explain further.

The fight is primarily centered between the factions of Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama and MCWD Chairman Jose Daluz III who have been at it since May 2023

In a nutshell, the mayor wanted the chairman out of the seat for allegedly failing to prepare MCWD for the El Niño season while the chairman claimed that the mayor only wants to privatize MCWD. 

The issue got more complicated when Cebu mayors, led by Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, joined the fight by announcing their support for Daluz on Monday, April 15.

So now what exactly is going on at MCWD and who’s using who?

Workplace hostilities

On March 15, LWUA administrator Jose Salonga, who was appointed to the position by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in February, enforced a takeover at the MCWD.

LWUA installed Noel Samonte, Maria Perez, and Anabelle Gravador as the MCWD’s interim board of directors, replacing Daluz, MCWD Vice Chairman Miguelito Pato, and Secretary Jodelyn May Seno.

On April 12, the LWUA interim board of directors appointed Lapid, who used to be the head of the MCWD Customer Care Division, as the new MCWD general manager.

He was expected to replace the existing general manager, Edgar Donoso, but was barred from entering the MCWD building along Magallanes Street on April 15. 

This “ban” was enforced through a memorandum that Donoso signed on April 15 under orders of Daluz and fellow directors who claimed that their removal as board members was done illegally.

But a statement from the MCWD posted on their official social media page on Tuesday morning, April 16, confirmed that Lapid was still able to enter the building on Monday evening through what they described as an “atrocious disruption” of services.

“Last night, around 10 pm, Lapid and his cohorts from the Cebu City Hall unlawfully entered the MCWD main building, harassing security personnel and forcibly gaining access to the manager’s office,” the statement read.

Of course, city authorities did not react to the ban against Lapid with a slap on the wrist. Barricades were placed around the MCWD building’s premises, obstructing access to the offices.

“Such uncivilized, irresponsible, and deplorable acts will not be tolerated by MCWD…We will pursue all available avenues, including legal recourse, to restore normal operations at our main office and hold those accountable for these acts of chaos and disruption to the full extent of the law,” the MCWD’s statement read.

An MCWD employee that did not wish to be named told Rappler on Tuesday that the incident has caused them distress, especially after witnessing a confrontation between Daluz and Rama’s groups from inside the water firm’s board room.

In a video posted by the Cebu City government’s news arm, Cebu City Administrator Collin Rosell can be seen arguing in favor of Lapid’s appointment as general manager against Seno.

“We feel like we’ve been deprived of our own office,” the MCWD employee said. 

Retaliation and alliances

Initially, Daluz agreed to the LWUA’s decision to change the MCWD leadership, but in a press conference on March 20, the chairman announced that the board passed a resolution seeking a comment from the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) about the takeover.

The OGCC in a legal opinion issued on March 26, cited the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973 which states that in the event of a default by the water district in the payment of obligations to the LWUA, the latter may take over the district.

On April 15, Daluz claimed in a meeting with town mayors and the Cebu governor that the MCWD is not yet in default. He added that the MCWD has a “manageable” obligation to LWUA of P13.7 million.

The mayors, led by Garcia, signed a manifesto of support for Daluz, expressing their opposition to the LWUA.

“Administrator Salonga’s actions directly contradict the public commitment made by LWUA Chairman Ronnie Ong on March 21st, 2024, to abide by the OGCC opinion,” the manifesto read.

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan, Talisay City Mayor Samsam Gullas, Compostela Mayor Felijur Quiño, Liloan Mayor Aljew Frasco, Consolacion Mayor Teresa Alegado, Cordova Mayor Cesar Suan, Consolacion Mayor Teresa Alegado, and League of the Municipalities Cebu Province President Sun Shimura signed the manifesto of support.

Garcia and Rama have been arguing with each other as well over the governor’s moves to halt civil works for the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT). The mayor aired out his frustrations about the governor that go way back to the Sinulog Festival in January 2023.

You know what they say, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    It is time for Rappler to conduct a nationwide survey of water districts in the country and find out the percentage of those involved in political warfare, corruption, etc. This will significantly help Rappler readers understand the situation of water districts in the country.

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