The courageous and daring revelation of Casureco 1 GM, Anne Alsisto regarding the controversial multi-million Peso “coerced solicitation” of Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) to all 121 members all over the country, shocked everyone in attendance during the Press Conference she called in a hotel here in Naga City. This happened just a week before the last election.
This dubious fund solicitation, she said, is to purportedly fund Philreca’s run for Party List seat (Philreca won in the last election) in the guise of its “legislative agenda”. Others in the know, however, view this with surreptitious agenda of the NEA administrator, Edgardo Masongsong—a solid supporter and behind the back campaigner of Philreca’s Party List nominees, all known to be beholden to him.
Millions of Pesos have been remitted and collected by Philreca from Electric Cooperatives (ECs)—latest reported total contributions amounted to no less than P60 Million! One of the few, however, which refused to contribute, are Casureco 1 and III, where Ms Alsisto seats as GM and member of the Board, respectively.
The National Electrification Administration (NEA) by virtue of PD 269 as amended, has full supervision and control over ECs. All Resolutions of the Board, consequently, shall obtain first “explicit approval” of NEA before their affectivity.
By the same token, NEA is expected and duty bound to either approve or disapprove EC board resolution, more so, if the same involves considerable amount of fund disbursement outside of its annual budget and when perceived to sidestep willfully Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) approved power rate matrix referenced for the allocation of EC funds.
Philreca’s solicitation and subsequent fund releases by the Board of Directors (BoD) of ECs contravene these two above-mentioned fundamental elements in the sound budgeting because they are neither in the budget, nor included in the said ERC approved allocation of funds in the power rate matrix.
However, the most serious violation in this circumstance is the BoD’s audacious act in the release of EC funds to Philreca without the “explicit approval” of NEA. The BoD’s keen interpretation of NEA’s apparent approval was in reality akin to a double-edge sword—to be in the grace of NEA if they deemed it as the go-ahead signal to release the fund or, if the going gets tough and it gets challenged later, they (the BoD) are on their own.
NEA Administrator Masongsong’s response to the BoD resolutions in the appropriation of funds for Philreca submitted for his approval was an across the board play-safe, which is non-decision at all, which reads; “we interpose no objection on your Board Resolution No.…”A Resolution Approving the Amount of …..”—a cryptic response, but nonetheless comparable to Pontius Pilate’s washing of hands when asked to decide the fate of Jesus Christ and Barabbas. It vaguely means that he (Masongsong) will not be part of the BoD’s decision to release, or not to release the funds to Philreca.
But, no matter how he tries to play it safe, Adm. Masongsong is duty bound, as mentioned earlier, and in accordance with his mandate, to render “explicit approval or disapproval” to resolutions of the Board specially if the same involved a large amount of money (some EC’s contributed in Millions of Pesos!) and perceived by all means as irregular disbursement.
It would be impossible to just ignore the role of Adm. Masongsong in this controversy. He is either naively ignorant, hence remiss of his duties and responsibilities as the approving authority, or he is behind this scheming arrangement in raising multi-million Peso fund for Philreca’s Party List run.
Since the contributions come from ECs—a private entity for that matter— Commission On Audit (COA) has no jurisdiction over that fund. Philreca then can freely spend the money where it wishes without fear of government restrictions and regulations.
And what about the liability of the Board of Directors of Electric Cooperatives that recklessly authorized the release of funds to Philreca?
R.A. 10531, otherwise known as NEA Law, extraordinarily assigned and empowered NEA in the exclusive adjudication of administrative complaints against the officers of ECs; these are the members of the Board of Directors, General Manager, Division and Area Managers and other officers with the rank equivalent to the previously named officers.
In furtherance of its power of supervision and control over ECs, the subsequent issuance of PD 1645 as amendment to PD 269, transformed NEA as a quasi-judicial to the Regional Trial Court (RTC)—meaning they are now co-equal, and as such, one cannot restrain the other. Only the higher courts—the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court have the power over NEA.
In this context, who will bring, from the ranks of member-consumers, a case against NEA to Higher Court when the docket fee in the Court of Appeals alone is incredibly high and prohibitive for an ordinary power consumer to afford, which is almost a million Pesos?....NADA, as in nobody!
Because of this immense power, NEA has become abusive:
In 2015, NEA ruled and allowed the remaining two out of the nine directors in Casureco II to constitute a quorum in the Board after the seven were either suspended or disqualified for one reason or another. NEA sanctioned its continuous operation although it was evidently contrary to PD 269 as amended and to the coop By-Laws—and to the extent, insulted the logic and common sense of the member-consumers when the two BoD passed several resolutions among themselves all of which were approved by NEA. NEA also took over Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative (Canoreco) and Casureco II (again) a few years back even when these ECs were not classified as “ailing ECs”—a precondition to NEA taking over under R.A. 10531, to name few of its misdeeds and abuses.
At this juncture, after everything is said and done, will any member-consumer now also dare to file an administrative case against the BoDs who disbursed coop funds to Philreca’s election campaign without the “explicit approval” of NEA?
It is very clear that this case, if filed will fall under NEA’s jurisdiction by virtue of RA 10531 as explained above.
In addition, this makes the case more difficult as well because the NEA Administrator will investigate, prosecute and hand down the final decision to a case he himself is a party of by his evasive role in not rendering the required “explicit approval or disapproval” of board resolutions as mandated by law in the protection of the ECs.
But, let us leave that to the Ombudsman if ever.
In the case of the BoD, they are not off the hook yet. If their act of disbursing the funds of the coop is interpreted by the Prosecutor’s Office as without the “explicit approval of NEA”, it could lead to misappropriation of funds and illegal disbursement, which is considered Criminal in nature. A case then can straightaway be filed at the RTC, which has jurisdiction.
The latest news is that a Senate Investigation regarding this controversy will likely happen soon.
GM Anne Alsisto of Casureco 1 has opened a Pandora’s Box which really stinks to high heavens. Let us support her in her crusade to fight dirty politics in both Philreca and NEA, and make the conspiring BoD of ECs accountable for their total disregard of their sworn duties in the protection of coop funds.