Negros Occidental

NEA’s sacking of electric coop’s directors in Negros Occidental worries power advocates

Reymund Titong

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NEA’s sacking of electric coop’s directors in Negros Occidental worries power advocates

ANNUAL MEETING. One of the consumers-members-owners (CMOs) of Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative questions the holding of the business meeting of the cooperative's management committee on Saturday, April 6, in Kabankalan City.

Reymund Titong/Rappler

Negros Power Watch claims the ousting of the Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative's nine board members and the suspension of its general manager were carried out by the National Electric Administration without legal justification

(Editor’s note: Clarification added that PHILRECA cited an earlier court ruling regarding NEA appointments.)

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Power advocates in Negros Occidental have expressed concern over the termination of the board of directors and extended suspension of the general manager of the Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative (NOCECO) by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) due to alleged anomalies.

Lawyer Rey Gorgonio, legal council for Negros Power Watch, claimed that the ousting of NOCECO’s nine board members and the suspension of its general manager were carried out without legal justification as a registered cooperative under Republic Act No. 9520 or the Cooperative Code of the Philippines.

Gorgonio claimed that when the cooperative was facing difficulties due to Super Typhoon Odette, “NEA did not offer any assistance despite its mandate to assist electric cooperatives (ECs) during challenging times.”

The cooperative’s general manager (GM), Engineer Ray Bustamante, was suspended by NEA Administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda for 90 days on allegations of disregarding NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035, dated October 24, 2017, which outlines the revised policy on the selection, hiring, termination of service, and suspension of general managers of electric cooperatives.

NEA appointed another engineer, Domingo Santiago Jr., as the acting general manager of NOCECO for six months or until a regular general manager has been appointed.

Almeda also suspended its board members after they failed to explain how Bustamante assumed office as the general manager.

Another order was issued on December 11, 2023, placing them for another 90 days of preventive suspension due to the alleged board’s decision to grant salary and allowance increases to its employees and pay retirement pay to its former general manager, Jonas Discaya, without NEA’s approval.

The Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc. (PHILRECA) has reiterated that the NEA does not have the power to appoint or determine the selection criteria for GMs of electric cooperatives. The group stated that the selection process removed the EC’s right to choose its general manager, rendering the EC powerless.

PHILRECA cited an earlier court ruling on the Isabela Electric Cooperative that nullified at least two NEA issuances related to selecting GMs for electric cooperatives.

Following a motu proprio investigation, NEA removed all of the Board of Directors of NOCECO in a decision released on February 27, 2024, for grave misconduct. According to the decision, the BODs were found guilty of violating NEA’s memorandum, resulting in their removal.

The decision also recommends their disqualification for “reinstatement or reemployment in any electric cooperative, to run as a candidate for a board of director position in any cooperative, and their other monetary benefits are hereby recommended forfeited.”

Former NOCECO board member Edmund Arceo filed a petition for certiorari with an application for a preliminary mandatory injunction before the Court of Appeals, directing NEA to reinstate the cooperative’s removed directors.

Arceo warned all CMOs to be vigilant and should ask for a copy of the revised CBL of NOCECO in a local dialect so they can fully understand the amendments, as it could deceive them. He added that NOCECO is not ailing, so NEA has no right to step in and take over the operation of the electric cooperative. – Rappler.com

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