Leaders of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party and the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) today filed a motion for reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s decision on the petition to annul two Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) resolutions that violated existing laws and jurisprudence on public utilities.
The groups stressed that the two MWSS resolutions—Resolution No. 2004-201 of the MWSS Board of Trustees and Resolution No. 04-006-CA of MWSS Regulatory Office—resulted in:
• The exemption of MWCI and MWSI from the 12 percent profit margin limitation under Section 12 of the MWSS Charter;
• The passing on to unsuspecting consumers their corporate income taxes;
• The refusal to extend their services to anyone within their jurisdiction; and,
• The exemption, in effect, from the provisions expressed in Article XII, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution, which limits foreign ownership of public utilities to at most 40 percent.
In their motion, the groups argued the petition is not a case “contesting the rates or fees of water or sewerage services” and as such does not fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the National Water Resources Board (NWRB).
“What we submitted last June 2006 was a petition to annul two MWSS resolutions which declared the two water concessionaires—Manila Water Company, Inc. (MWCI) and Maynilad Water Services, Inc. (MWSI)—as ‘mere agents’ and not as public utilities,” said FDC vice president Edwin Chavez.
“We are not contesting the rates granted by the two MWSS bodies to the water companies, but the legal validity of their declaration that these water concessionaires are not public utilities. We firmly believe they are public utilities,” stressed Chavez.
Last December 10, the High Court en banc junked the petition filed by FDC, Akbayan, APL and other petitioners—representatives Joel Villanueva, Eduardo Zialcita, and Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel ; former representatives Mario Aguja and Renato Magtubo; and, individuals Ma. Theresa Diokno-Pascual, Mary Ann Manahan and Patrocinio Jude Esguerra III.
In a 13-page decision penned by Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, the Supreme Court said the petitioners failed to first avail of the appropriate remedy by appealing the resolution with the NWRB, and to include two indispensable parties, MWCI and MWSI.
“The concessionaires are not indispensable parties to the petition,” argued the groups in their motion.
“While it may true that the decision will have some effect on them, our petition is anchored on the ground that pertinent statutes and jurisprudence were contradicted by the assailed resolutions issued by the MWSS Board of Trustees and Regulatory Office,” said Chavez.
“We believe that our petition raises Constitutional issues and is imbued with public interest,” said Chavez.
The groups argued that while the Constitution itself does not provide a definition of public utilities per se, it nonetheless establishes a framework concerning public utilities under Section 11, Article XII, which prescribes certain requirements for their operation, e.g. equity requirements, takeover by the State under certain conditions, and the like.
They claimed that the assailed resolutions have the direct effect of removing the Concessionaires from the coverage of this constitutional provision, in detriment to the rights and interests of the Petitioners, and the general public.