Removal of Negros Occidental’s electric cooperative general manager sparks outcry 

Reymund Titong

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Removal of Negros Occidental’s electric cooperative general manager sparks outcry 

TERMINATED. Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative (NOCECO) general manager engineer Ray Bustamante greets the cooperative's employees, after he received his termination order on April 11, 2024, at the NOCECO office in Kabankalan City. 

Reymund Titong

Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative general manager Ray Bustamante was supposed to return to work on April 11, after being placed under preventive suspension

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – The termination and removal of the Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative (NOCECO) general manager Ray Bustamante has sparked an outcry among power advocates, family, and members-consumers-owners (MCOs) of the cooperative.

The National Electrification Administration has ordered the termination of Bustamante as the Technical Services Department Manager of the NOCECO, and the forfeiture of all his monetary benefits. NEA administrator Mariano Almeda signed the termination order on April 1, 2024.

Bustamante was supposed to return to work on April 11 after being placed under two separate preventive suspensions totaling 180 days.

A cooperative member, Irene Viason, said that Bustamante’s termination was “unjust” and that other members of the cooperative were not informed of his status during the 42nd Annual General Membership Assembly (AGMA) on April 6, chaired by NEA-appointed acting general manager Domingo Santiago,Jr.

“Ray Bustamante is a simple and brilliant person. As an MCO, I find him capable and hard working with a holistic approach regarding his personal and professional relationship/dealings,” she told Rappler. 

Viason said that Bustamante fulfilled his obligations which was why the board of directors appointed him the general manager. This was later confirmed and concurred by the general assembly in 2023. 

Lawyer Rey Gorgonio, speaking on behalf of Bustamante and the Negros Consumers Watch (NCW), told Rappler on Saturday, April 13, that the termination order of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) was “inhumane” and “oppressive.” 

Gorgonio said that Bustamante had never violated any laws, not even when he took over as general manager of the electric cooperative after being appointed by the NOCECO board of directors. 

He said that NEA should not interfere in the “internal management” of NOCECO, as it is not part of its mandate. 

“The selection and the engagement of employees is the prerogative of the employer, which is the NOCECO, exercised through the board of directors,” Gorgonio said. 

The directors who appointed Bustamante were also terminated in a decision released on February 27, 2024, for grave misconduct. According to the decision, they were found guilty of violating NEA’s memorandum, resulting in their removal.

Several of them have filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals for the reversal of NEA’s termination order.

NEA, in response, said it has regulatory jurisdiction over the electric cooperatives, citing its role as a quasi-judicial agency under Republic Act No. 10531 or the National Electrification Administration Decree.

In a press conference on April 8, NEA chief administrator Almeda refuted claims that the nine members of NOCECO’s board of directors were dismissed without legal justification. –

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