The National Electrification Administration has removed one member from the current board of directors of Palawan Electric Cooperative and imposed a 90-day suspension on another following an audit on the cooperative that covered its actions from as early as 2004 to mid-2017, including irregularities in the procurement of wood utility poles and entering into contracts for sitio and barangay electrification.

Palawan News sources said the administration committee of the National Electrification Administration (NEA), based on a decision released almost seven years later, has removed Moises Arzaga Jr. from his role as the District II board of director (BOD), while Maylene Ballares, the BOD for District I, has been suspended for a three-month period.

According to the source, every board of directors who served from 2004 to 2017, during the time of Jo Tan Paredes as chairman and Ponciano Payuyo as Paleco general manager, were discovered to have committed infractions. However, Arzaga and Ballares are the only ones who remain in their positions, having won in recent district elections.

“Sila lang ngayon ang may penalty kasi serving pa sila, pero yong iba may record na, may decision na sa kanila. Hindi na madi-dismiss ang iba kasi wala na sila. Pero kung andyan pa sila, idi-dismiss sila,” the source claimed.

“Ito yong pagbili ng wood pole na kwestyonable. Milyones siya at kwestyonable ang bidding,” added the source.

Arzaga and Ballares, the source further claimed, are among those being investigated in the ongoing inquiry regarding discrepancies uncovered during the second audit, which covers the timeframe from June 2017 to April 2022.

Additionally, approximately 20 Paleco employees have been issued summonses by the NEA to provide explanations concerning issues connected to this matter.

“Tungkol sa maraming bagay itong ongoing investigation sa second audit. Lahat ng transactions ng coop, ino-audit yan—bidding, hiring, lahat ng ginagawa. Institutional na parang Commission on Audit,” explained the source.

The NEA ruling regarding Arzaga and Ballares for the period spanning from 2004 to the middle of 2017 is described as “immediately executory subject to appeal.”

Sources further claimed that Arzaga and Ballares already refrained from attending the Paleco BOD meeting on September 12 after receiving directives from the NEA.

Engr. Rez Contrivida, the general manager of Paleco, did not confirm whether it was Arzaga who was dismissed by the NEA and Ballares who was suspended during an interview on Wednesday, September 13.

He stated that he did not have access to the decision and summonses because they were personally served to Arzaga, Ballares, and other concerned individuals on September 7 by Atty. Almira Monica Lumbang from the legal office of the NEA.

“Pumunta yong dalawang taga legal office ng NEA dito last week. Ang ginawa nila, may dala silang dalawang klase ng folder—yong isa decision, yong isa ay summons. Pagdating nila dito, yong mga pagbibigyan nila, pinuntahan nila yon individually,” Engr. Contrivida said.

“Sa mga employees, hindi ko alam yong exact figure, kasi sila yong nagpunta sa mga empleyado at pina receive nila. Yong content ng mga decision at summons, yong empleyado at BOD lang rin na naka receive ang nakakita. It’s between NEA and the persons,” he added.

The Paleco general manager further clarified that summonses were also issued to other past and present BODs to address matters related to the audit findings. However, he refrained from discussing specific details.

The sole person in possession of the NEA decisions and capable of providing specific information about them, he said, is Engr. Rene Fajilagutan, the project supervisor for the power cooperative.

Following the removal of one director, Engr. Contrivida said that Engr. Fajilagutan has advised them to anticipate a forthcoming memorandum addressing the issue.

“Magbababa siya ng memorandum sa management kung ano yong dapat na action na gagawin ng Paleco and the board. Ang sabi niya, three to five days, kasi dapat mag report din sa NEA after that,” he explained.

“Ang reason niyan, NEA audit findings—maraming audit findings. Ang Paleco ino-audit yan ng NEA. Ang alam ko lang dalawang audit findings,” he stated, noting further that the second audit findings pertain to the period from June 2017 to April 2022.

Palawan News has reached out to Arzaga and Ballares for their comments, but at this time, they have not replied to the request.