SC urged to order Maynilad, Manila Water to refund customers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 1) — The Bayan Muna Party-list has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to compel Maynilad and Manila Water to refund corporate income taxes that they had passed on to consumers.

The group filed a motion for partial reconsideration before the high court on Thursday following its recent ruling that the two water concessionaires are public utilities and should therefore not charge their customers for corporate income taxes.

In the same decision, however, the SC said Maynilad and Manila Water customers may no longer recover the amount they paid for the taxes because the 30-day period for claiming the refund had already lapsed.

In its motion, Bayan Muna noted that the high court has previously relaxed procedural rules "to advance substantial justice," granted there are compelling reasons.

"In these present consolidated cases, there are compelling reasons for the application of liberal construction of technical rules," the group said.

It urged the SC to order the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) to account all corporate income taxes of the two firms which were included in the water rates from 2002 to 2012 so these may be refunded.

Among Bayan Muna's arguments is that the 30-day period requirement to file the complaint contesting the water rates presents an "insurmountable hurdle" for ordinary customers.

For one, the group said that prior to the high court's decision, there was no definitive ruling as to where complaints regarding water rates fixed by the concessionaires and the MWSS may actually be filed.

"Surely, it would be the height of injustice to disallow a refund for the water consuming public when they have practically no way of knowing that a particular water rate is excessive at the time it was published and made effective," Bayan Muna added.

It said ordinary consumers also did not know they are supposed to appeal any decision by the MWSS on water rates to the National Water Resources Board.

"To put greater emphasis on a matter of procedure that is not even categorically written in the law, i.e. administrative complaint within 30 days from a water rate's effectivity prior to claiming a refund, as against the just and substantial right of the people to recover amounts unjustly and illegally collected from them is downright oppressive and a perpetuation of injustice," the petition also stated.