Cebu water district chairman holds firm against mayor’s new appointee

John Sitchon

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Cebu water district chairman holds firm against mayor’s new appointee

STANDING GROUND. While taking a look at the notices sent to his office regarding his removal, MCWD chairman Jose Daluz III told Rappler on Friday, November 3, that he is standing his ground.

John Sitchon/Rappler

Lawyer Jose Daluz III, chairman of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District, says Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama’s move to appoint new MCWD board members is both unlawful and politically-motivated

CEBU, Philippines – After defying orders to vacate his position as chairman of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) in May, lawyer Jose Daluz III is contending with a “new replacement” who has already made plans to solve major water supply issues in Cebu.

His “replacement” is retired major general Mel Feliciano, the former chief implementer of the inter-agency task force against COVID-19 in Visayas.

Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama made the decision to appoint Feliciano, along with businessman Nelson Yuvallos and lawyer Aristotle Batuhan as directors, on Tuesday, October 31, citing loss of confidence and cases of alleged graft and corruption under Daluz’s term.

On May 18, local officials said the mayor’s move to remove Daluz was based on the water district’s lack of preparation for the El Niño phenomenon.

Daluz told Rappler on Friday afternoon, November 3, that the appointments were unlawful and politically motivated. 

“This is an attack on the independence and autonomy of the water district,” Daluz said.

Legitimacy of removal

Daluz questioned the validity of the replacements appointed by the mayor. For one, he said, the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) has yet to send a formal communication about the removal of the incumbent MCWD board members.

Based on the law, he said, new appointments in government agencies can only be made if there are existing board vacancies.

Rama sent a recommendation for the removal and termination of the water district’s board members to LWUA on August 1, which the latter has yet to act upon.

This came after previous attempts to remove Daluz by convening board members to replace him with Vice Chairman Miguelito Pato, approving a report that contains the City Legal Office’s recommendation to dismiss the official, and serving an order of dismissal.

During a online forum on Friday afternoon, Rama said the mayor has the authority to appoint and remove officials on the MCWD board of directors. 

In 2019, the Cebu City government, along with five other local government units, filed resolutions expressing dissatisfaction with MCWD’s services. 

This dissatisfaction led to the removal of former MCWD chairman Joel Mari Yu and four other board members.

Daluz agreed that the previous members were rightfully removed. However, in his case, he said only Rama is acting on the removal without the expressed approval of LWUA. 

“Only after we had the approval of our appointment from LWUA did we take our oath,” Daluz said.

Regarding the appointment of MCWD’s women’s representative, Batuhan was chosen to replace Jodelyn Seno. 

Rama said any person can represent either gender. 

Daluz pointed out that in 2020, when LWUA confirmed his appointment as MCWD chairman, former Cebu mayor Alvin Garcia’s nomination as the women’s representative was rejected.

Based on LWUA Memorandum Circular 005.16, a reasonably qualified appointee for the women’s sector must be a respectable female citizen.

Not going anywhere

Despite this, Feliciano was introduced as the official who would lead MCWD on Cebu City’s tele-radio portal, Sugbuanon Channel. 

He shared plans to reevaluate past and present programs, saying, “We will be studying the different programs, even those that are in the pipeline, so they could be considered on the general strategic plan of the medium or even the long-term.” 

Daluz said the incumbent MCWD board members would not be removed, especially after the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) provided a legal opinion. 

In a letter sent to LWUA Chairman Ronnie Ong on September 16, Government Corporate Counsel Rogelio Quevedo said personnel actions involving removal from office can only be validly and lawfully done by or through other government agencies, such as the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Office of the Ombudsman. –

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