Tension rose as Administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda of the National Electrification Administration was refused entry into the Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative (NOCECO) compound in Barangay Binicuil, Kabankalan City, to serve a 90-day preventive suspension order on its general manager on Thursday morning, October 26.
Almeda and Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer were finally able to enter after a bolt cutter was used to break the padlock at the gate that the guards and NOCECO employees refused to open.
The NEA administrator had gone to NOCECO to serve a 90-day preventive suspension to NOCECO general manager Ray V. Bustamante.
Bustamante, however, allegedly had gone on leave and was not there.
Almeda said Bustamante assumed the post of NOCECO general manager in blatant disregard of NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035 or the “Revised Policy on the Selection, Hiring, and Termination of Service/Suspension for General Managers of Electric Cooperatives”.
Bustamante’s appointment as general manager by the NOCECO board of directors was illegal as it was not approved by NEA and had “procedural irregularities”, he said.
NEA deems it fit and necessary to preventively suspend Bustamante for 90 days effective immediately, to prevent him from using his position, power and prerogatives to influence potential witnesses or tamper with records that may be vital in the prosecution of the case against him, Almeda said.
The suspension will also prevent Bustamante from committing further acts of malfeasance while in office, he added.
Almeda installed Engineer Domingo S. Santiago Jr. as project supervisor/acting general manager of NOCECO for six months or until such time that a regular general manager has been appointed to the cooperative.
Aside from Bustamante, four NOCECO board members were also preventively suspended for 30 days to give them time to answer a show cause order issued by NEA on their appointment of Bustamante as general manager, Almeda said.
The closing of the gate that prevented Almeda from initially entering NOCECO was allegedly ordered by Bustamante. Those responsible for preventing his entry will face charges for obstruction of justice, Almeda said.
On an alleged petition in court, Almeda said unless there is a court order restraining him from exercising his authority he would proceed with enforcing the suspension of Bustamante and appointing an acting general manager.
This is only an interim measure to fill in the vacuum, the NOCECO employees have nothing to fear, Almeda said.
Ferrer said he was at NOCECO because he wanted to hear both sides.
The vice governor and Kabankalan City Mayor Benjie Miranda urged the NOCECO employees to continue their work to prevent the disruption of the cooperative’s services.*