Court asked to stop town from increasing water rates

BY

CEBU CITY – A retired police general has asked the court to stop the municipal government of Sogod in northern Cebu from implementing an ordinance that imposes what he described as exorbitant water rates.

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Jose Marie Espino and wife Rose, residents of Sogod, have filed a petition with application for writ of preliminary injunction before the Regional Trial Court in Danao City, Cebu to declare the town’s Municipal Water Code null and void.

Espino is a former regional director of the Police Regional Office-Central Visayas.

Named respondents in the petition were Sogod Mayor Lissa Marie Streegan and members of the municipal council.

Espino lamented that the town’s water rates increased by 150 percent after the Municipal Ordinance No. 15-2003, also known as the Municipal Water Code, was enacted by the town council and approved by the mayor on November 14, 2023.

He said no public hearing was made when the ordinance was passed.

“Last year, it was already reported that there would be an increase in the water rate. They kept it under wraps. The municipal and barangay officials were the only ones who conducted public hearings. There were just about 50 of them,” said Espino said.

As a resident and business owner in the town, Espino said he took it upon himself to block the implementation of the ordinance.

“I started the cause for the no to water increase in Sogod. I was very vocal. I took the cudgels for the people of Sogod because why would they increase the water rate when there was no public hearing,” said Espino.

Espino added that as a second-class municipality, the water rate increase was irregular.

“The administrators said we could not do anything anymore because the ordinance has been passed. But they can’t implement it now that I filed a temporary restraining order,” said Espino.

Espino said the increase was also untimely when there were times that there was no water supply in almost a week.

Water also becomes brownish when it rains, Espino said.

Prior to the passing of the ordinance, the minimum water residential rate in Sogod was pegged at P100 per 10 cubic meters. After the ordinance was passed, the minimum water rate in Sogod increased to P250 per 10 cubic meters.

In his petition, Espino said the ordinance enacting the water code of Sogo is unconstitutional and invalid “on the ground that it directly contravenes the 1987 Philippine Constitution and other laws.”

“The enactment of such unconstitutional ordinance constitutes grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Legislative and Executive branches of the Local Government Unit of the Municipality of Sogod,” the petition said.

Espino described the 150 percent increase as “unjust, excessive, oppressive, and confiscatory.”

“You should not increase the water rate by more than 10 percent based on the laws that I have read and no water increase within five years. We now have the most expensive water rate in Cebu,” said Espino.

Espino said it possible that the enactment of the water code was in preparation to have the town’s waterworks system privatized.

He shot down notions that he is making noise in the town for his political aspirations.

“I have no plans of joining politics. I have just taken the cudgels for the people of Sogod. They are against the water increase but they are not voicing out,” Espino said.