Consumers may file civil cases vs Manila Water, DOJ chief says

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 14 2019 10:40 PM | Updated as of Mar 14 2019 11:47 PM

A boy collects water from a dripping faucet in Barangay Tejeros in Makati City on Thursday as residents adjust to the scheduled water interruption in Metro Manila. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday said consumers and businesses affected by water interruptions may file civil cases against Ayala-owned Manila Water.

"If there is showing of fault or negligence on the part of Manila Water and if it is established that this crisis is caused not by natural causes of force majeure (unforeseeable circumstance), then affected consumers may file damage suits individually,” he said.

Force majeure is a defense in civil cases which exempts a person or entity from payment of damages if it can be shown that he/she or the entity being sued had no negligence or misconduct which led to the damage or injury to another person.

“There must be evidence of this fault or negligence before one can file a civil complaint. This evidence must then be presented to the court during the trial,” Guevarra explained.

Thousands have been affected by the water interruptions which Manila Water blamed on low water level of the La Mesa Dam and the delay in its infrastructure projects.

Bayan Muna Chair and senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares on Thursday said his group is mulling a class suit against Manila Water over the current water shortage affecting several parts of eastern Metro Manila.

Manila Water services the eastern portion of the National Capital Region while Maynilad operates in the western part. Maynilad did not face the same problems Manila Water is facing.

Colmenares blamed Manila Water for its negligence.

But the justice chief clarified that a class suit may not be the proper remedy.

“It can't be a class suit because each one may be differently affected or damaged by the same act or omission on the part of Manila Water, if any and if indeed shown to be tortious,” he said.

The Rules of Court allows a number of persons to file a “class suit” on behalf of the others provided that the subject matter of the controversy must be of common or general interest to persons so numerous that is it is not practical to include them all as parties.