1. Whether or not the CA erred in failing to rule that MWSS and MWCI can be compelled to dismantle existing water connections on ERDI’s land that was occupied by informal settlers; and
2. Whether or not MWCI can collect payment of bills for water connections on that land.
The Court’s Rulings
One. ERDI invokes the provisions of R.A. 8041 as cause for rendering a decision in its favor which would require MWSS and MWCI to disconnect all existing water service on ERDI’s property. But fair play dictates that matters, which ERDI did not raise in its complaint, are not allowed to be raised for the first time on appeal. Here, the Court cannot entertain ERDI’s new cause of action based on its alleged right under the provisions of R.A. 8041 since it is only in the course of its appeal to the CA that ERDI brought up the matter.
Besides, assuming that ERDI could still invoke in its favor the provisions of R.A. 8041, its claim must still fail. The water connections ERDI complained of are not the “illegal connections” subject of R.A. 8041. In ERDI’s case, those water connections were either a) installed by MWSS or MWCI and, therefore, cannot be regarded as illegal or b) illegally installed by the settlers themselves but were subsequently ratified by the water utility company. To be considered illegal under the purview of R.A. 8041, the water connections must be unauthorized by the water utility company, not by any other entity.
Nor can ERDI invoke the charter of MWSS as source of its right to compel MWSS or MWCI to remove the existing connections. The rights and the remedies for removal of illegal connections under that charter belong to the water utilities, not to ERDI.
The Court is not unmindful of its December 2, 1998 resolution in G.R. 135727 that affirmed the rescission of the MOA between ERDI and the Marikina government. Before its rescission, the MOA authorized the Marikinagovernment to lay ground works for infrastructures such as lights and other amenities of community life. Undoubtedly, it was this provision of the MOA that opened the way for settlers to apply with the MWSS for water connections. While the witness for ERDI testified that he did not know when the construction of the water lines began, it may be assumed that the same took place during the time the MOA was still in force. No evidence has been presented to show that the water system on ERDI’s land was put in place during the pendency of the earlier ejectment case. Consequently, it cannot be said that the water connections were illegal from the beginning.
True, the MOA has been rescinded by final judgment but the obligation to remove the water connections fell upon theMarikinagovernment, not upon respondent water utilities who were not parties to the earlier case. For this reason, ERDI’s remedy is to have the final judgments of the Marikina MTC in Civil Case 92-5592 and the Quezon City RTC in Civil Case Q-96-28338 executed, not only for the eviction of the settlers but also for the eventual removal of all structures, constructions, and projects that the Marikina government introduced or allowed to be introduced in the place.
ERDI claims that the RTC and the CA’s rulings, which allowed water service to illegal settlers to continue, are acts of cowardice in the face of the need to enforce its right as owner of the land to disallow such service. But as ERDI knows, the problem is not that easy. Its land has become a colony of thousands of informal settlers who have nowhere to go, posing a serious social problem. ERDI is not exactly blameless for this result. It ought to know that empty lands in places likeMarikinaare susceptible to the entry of such settlers and that both the national and local governments have difficulty in preventing squatting. Consequently, ERDI has itself to blame for letting the problem deteriorate. It was of course generous of ERDI to enter into the MOA with the Marikina government but it failed to exercise adequate prudence and care to prevent the agreement from being overwhelmed by the uncontrolled surge of settlers.
The task of evicting the large number of settlers from its land belongs to ERDI with the assistance of the authorities. It had obtained final judgment in its favor against the initial group of settlers that occupied the same. Still, ERDI had been unable to use these judgments, no doubt because it frowned on the terrible violence and human sufferings that such would cause. Surely, ERDI would not be justified in using MWSS and MWCI as tool for depriving the people on its land of the water they need for drinking, washing, and sanitation, subjecting them to the diseases that absence or shortage of water would cause, considering that the water connections were installed lawfully when the MOA was still in effect.
Two. ERDI contends that MWCI should not be allowed to collect payments for the water bills of its customers on ERDI’s land. But, having ruled that MWSS and MWCI put the water service in place on that land for certain customers there when this was still permitted, there is no valid reason for such water service to be severed before the informal settlers concerned are properly evicted. And if it is not severed, it would be unreasonable to prevent MWCI from collecting from its customers the cost of its service.