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Author Topic: Court of Appeals Wants Bohol Water to Refund Customers  (Read 573 times)

Ligalig-Mike

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Court of Appeals Wants Bohol Water to Refund Customers
« on: December 07, 2011, 05:44:57 PM »
By Bohol Standard

The Bohol Water Utilities Inc. (BWUI) has remained silent as of today on the Court of Appeals ruling to refund the alleged illegal water rates it imposed to same consumers they serve in 1997-2002 when it took over in 2001 the former Provincial Water System (PWS) utility from the provincial government of Bohol as a result of the “sale” or “privatization of the utility.

“It cannot yet comment on the said refund (water payments from consumers it collected in 1997-2002) because the company has not received yet an official court decision,” said public relations officer Dice Arcenal of said firm in an interview.

Just recently, the water provider company announced it will retroactively collect the unbilled water rates increase it applied in 2006 from the city consumers they serve.

The Court of Appeals has promulgated the decision on October 13, 2011, upholding en toto the ruling of the Regional Trial Court branch 47 here. RTC’s ruling was that BWUI shall refund the consumers for the “unlawful charges collected” by then Provincial Water System covering the said period.

The RTC ruling was the result of the case filed on June 2, 1997 by Dan Neri Lim, now mayor of this city. He was legally assisted by Atty. Alexander H. Lim. The complainant (Lim) asked the court to invalidate Provincial Ordinance No. 14, series of 1996, concerning the water rates increase at that time because there was lack of public consultation and the measure appeared to be confiscatory.

RTC upheld the allegation of the petitioner (Lim) and declared said Ordinance No. 14, series of 1996, “unconstitutional” and ordered the BWUI to roll back water rates to its original rates, it was learned.

Executive Judge Suzeso Arcamo of RTC 47 confirmed in a report the said CA decision. He narrated how the case progressed from then presiding Judge Son, who rendered the ruling that Provincial Ordinance No 14, series fo 1996 was “unconstitutional.” Judge Son then ordered BWUI to roll back the PhP7.80/cubic meter from just a little over PhP3/cu.m.

Executive Judge Arcamo said he modified the decision of Judge Son and made BWUI to refund the consumers.

But BWUI fought back, arguing that it was not then included in the case against the Province and PWS case when the latter increased the water rates by way of said Provincial Ordinance No. 14.

Judge Arcamo said that BWUI is considered as transferee pendente lite of the PPUD since it assumed all the assets and liabilities when it took over it in 2001. As transferee they assumed all the assets and obligations of the former PPUD, he said.

BWUI argued that it should be the provincial government to make the refund. Judge Arcamo said it still alright for the province to refund since it is the part owner of the BWUI through its share of the income from the BWUI based on 30% ownership of BWUI.

The judge said that BWUI said that the decision of the court (Judge Son’s ruling) cannot anymore be modified since it is already “final and executory”, based on the doctrine of “immutability of judgment.”

But, he said, there is an exception on that law when “there is clerical error,” “there’s void in judgment” and there’s “supervening event” that was “unforeseen” during the making of the decision. The transfer of PWS’ ownership to BWUI from the province following the sale of the PPUD was the supervening event and was unforeseen, Arcamo argued.

Despite his order, BWUI filed motion for reconsideration before his court but he denied it. BWUI elevated the case to CA and the latter upheld his decision, Jaudge Arcamo added.

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