BY PET MELLIZA/ The Beekeeper
Iloilo City Mayor Jedd Patrick Mabilog acted like a five-year throwing tantrums; his crusade to collect 100,000 signatures to abolish the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) is just like that – a crude antic of a spurned child.
He and his cabal want the MIWD privatized, a plot spun 10 years ago yet when Engr. Adrian Moncada was named director by then Mayor Jerry Treñas. Credit for that belongs to Moncada and his likeminded comrades in the directorate who want to bring the water district down to justify its privatization.
Last year, the knife sank deeper as two MIWD directors Moncada and Celso Javelosa, comebacking Sen. Franklin Drilon, incoming Rep. Jerry Treñas, and incoming Mayor Mabilog, met in Manila, on the privatization of the MIWD. One big name emerging as “investor” at the meeting was Rogelio Florete.
The past 10 years, MIWD limped like a cancer-stricken patient, too sick to maintain its pipelines; the directors want that so to render it inefficient and thus, justify its sell-out to private hands, namely: Mabilog’s, Treñas’s and Drilon’s, among them.
Last quarter of 2010, the Light Water Utilities Administration nullified the appointments made by Mabilog to the board of directors. MIWD administrator Daniel Landingin declared the posts held by Dr. Sergio M. Gonzales, Dr. Danilo A. Encarnacion, Celso Javelosa, Engr. Adrian Moncada and Ma. Bernadette Jamerlan Castellano void ab initio. Applying PD 198, Mabilog had no power to appoint member the directors because MIWD consumers in the city were only 20 percent of the population, far less than 75 percent, the minimum limit set by PD 198.
The same presidential decree states that the power to appoint the directors rests on the governor of Iloilo, in this case, Arthur D. Defensor. Sr. The bulk of MIWD consumers live in the towns of Pavia, Leganes, Oton, San Miguel, Cabatuan, Sta. Barbara and Maasin.
Moncada et al. wrenched a reprieve last December when the RTC granted their prayer for temporary restraining order, in effect, restoring the Mabilog-appointed directors. That victory was short lived. LWUA was not impleaded as respondent. The directors also filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for TRO or injunction with the court of Appeals.
The CA trashed the action in its resolution dated February 28 that, in turn, paved the way for LWUA to appoint interim directors on April 1, namely: Engr. Alfredo B. Espino, Atty. Arnaldo Espinas, engr. Rommel R. Falcon, Engr. Pablo B. Bercilla, Ricardo C. Quiras. Their term is one year starting with the date of issue.
Even if respondents would not answer, the petition was already doomed at its face. The appellate court need not tackle its merits because mere technicalities already suffice to cast it to the dustbin. The CA found it saddled with “infirmities”: it failed to explain why the filing was done by mail in lieu of personal service as required; Javelosa’s authority to represent his co-directors was not an original copy; the petitioners had no “competent evidence” to their identities in the portion of the pleading called “verification” and “certificate of non-forum shopping”; and there was no proof of service of its copy to respondents.
As to its substantive flaws, petitioners did not “exhaust administrative remedies”. The “(c)ourts cannot and will not resolve a controversy involving a question which is within the jurisdiction of an administrative tribunal, especially where the question demands the exercise of sound administrative discretion requiring special knowledge, experience and services of the administrative tribunal to determine technical and intricate matters of fact”, reads the CA resolution.
Petitioners cut corners by going directly to the CA instead of the Civil Service Commission (CSC). Writes the CA: “In a surfeit of cases, it had been held that quasi-judicial bodies like the CSC are better equipped in handling cases involving the employment status of employees…since it is within the field of its expertise. This is consistent with the powers and functions of the CSC, being the central personnel agency of the government, to carry into effect the provisions of the Civil Service Law and other pertinent laws, including in this case PD 198”.
The Mabilog-appointed board rushed a petition to the CSC but it’s already too late in the day.