• CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO
The Nineteenth Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) granted the petition filed by the convenors of Amlig Tubig in the case they logged against the Bacolod City Water District, Primewater Infrastructure Corp, Romeo Sabater (in his capacity as vice president of Prime water), et al., involving the contract between Baciwa and Primewater.
The court also reversed and set aside the order dated November 11, 2020 and amended order dated January 13, 2021 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 45 of Bacolod City, which it directed to continue with dispatch the proceedings in Civil Case No. 20-15545.
Civil Case No.20-15545 or a petition for declaratory relief and declaration of nullity of the joint venture agreement (JVA) between Baciwa and Primewater was filed in 2021 by Amlig Tubig convenors Wilson Gamboa Jr., Pepito Pico, Lordgeline Jones and Ireneo Longinos against Baciwa et al., seeking the nullification of the 25-year joint venture agreement (JVA) between the water utility firm and the Villar-owned Primewater.
Gamboa yesterday said the case was earlier dismissed by the RTC for the reason that they are not real-parties-in-interest and have no legal personality to seek the nullification of the JVA.
However, the Court of Appeals (CA) informed RTC that “the case is imbued with public as it involves the supply of drinking water to the public, and the right of consumers to safe sufficient, affordable, and convenient access to it which may be affected by the unjustifiable increases in water tariffs, fees and other charges,” he said.
So the CA remanded the case to RTC and directed that a trial hearing on the case be immediately conducted because the issues raised by Amlig Tubig have merit, he said.
Gamboa said the hearing will be attended by the petitioners and representatives of Baciwa and Primewater.
If the respondents file a motion for reconsideration (MR) and the case will go up to the Supreme Court (SC), he believes that the SC, after reviewing the case, will send it back to the RTC to hear the case again. The SC cannot issue a decision if there is no case, he added.*