By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
ILOILO City Mayor Jose Espinosa III is ready to face the charges filed by Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) against the city government following the approval of the water distribution franchise of the Villar-led Prime Water Infrastructure Corp.
Espinosa said he is willing to fight the criminal and administrative charges all the way up to the Supreme Court.
“Kon sagi ka lang man da abusar kag waay ka may ginahimo sa serbisyo mo, te atubangun ta na ya, we will fight up to the Supreme Court,” he said.
The mayor slammed MIWD saying that the water firm should focus on improving its services instead of filing complaints.
“Tani bala instead of filing the case, himuon lang tani nila is increase their capacity from 21 percent to 100 percent. If their services are okay, wala man da sang may ma-apply diri,” he said.
Recently, MIWD filed criminal and administrative charges against Espinosa, and eight city councilors – R Leone Gerochi, Eduardo Peñaredondo, Liezl Joy Zulueta-Salazar, Lyndon Acap, Candice Tupas, Mandrei Malabor, Plaridel Nava, and Joshua Alim – who all voted in favor of Prime Water’s franchise application.
The criminal charges include usurpation of official functions and graft and corruption practices while the administrative charges are for culpable violation of the constitution, grave abuse of authority, gross negligence, grave misconduct and acts contrary to the law.
MIWD questioned the SP’s power to grant franchise, citing that the privilege, authority or license with respect to use, utilization and development of water resources, which can only be exercised by the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) under the Water Code of the Philippines.
“Apparently, from the wording of the Constitution, the grant of franchise is essentially a congressional act. In the case of the respondents and the SP of Iloilo City, nothing in the Water Code of the Philippines provides for the power to grant license or franchise with respect to water resources can be construed to have been delegated to the LGUs,” MIWD complaint said.
Amidst the varying legal opinions, the Sangguniang Panglungsod approved the first and final reading of an ordinance granting franchise to Prime Water to establish, operate, and maintain a water supply system in Iloilo City on Dec. 11, 2018.
Councilor Plaridel Nava, committee on public utilities chair emphasized the SP’s authority to grant the franchise in his committee report.
According to Nava, the city government, through the SP, has the authority to grant franchise to Prime Water in accordance with Republic Act 7160 (The Local Government Code of 1991) particularly Section 458, that enumerates the powers, duties, and functions of SP.
City Administrator Atty. Hernando Galvez recently intimated that the cases filed before the Ombudsman have no “cause of action” and “personality.”
“Ang MIWD they have no more cause of action. Dapat ang cause of action mapakita ka ngayou are an injured party. Amo na siling nila, sa sini nga hagna ano ang injury sang MIWD?” Galvez said.
Galvez also stressed the non-exclusivity of granting franchise to any agency.
“Ang exclusive contract has long been abrogated by the Supreme Court. Wala sangexclusivity. Libre na ta tanan. It would be different kon exclusive sila. Nobody could say nga sila lang kay nasiling ta na, wala na sang exclusivity nga contract subong,” he said.
Espinosa emphasized the need to improve water services in the city.
“Ang akon ya wala ko sang iban purpose, kundi para lang gid may tubig ang siyudad sang Iloilo Kinahanglan tani kay-uhon ang serbisyo. Kadako-dako ang siyudad sang Iloilo and madamo sang paalabuton na developments, kinanglan gid may tubig,” Espinosa stressed.