Palawan Electric Cooperative’s (PALECO) elections screening committee has disqualified its current board chair’s bid for a fresh term as District 1 representative, a week before the November 12 district election.
Information officer Maria Janelle Rebusada said the elections screening committee deliberated on Friday, November 4, on the candidacy of Maylene Ballares, the lone candidate for District 1 covering Puerto Princesa Poblacion from barangays Pag-asa to Bancao-Bancao. She has been the director of District 1 since March 21, 2015.
PALECO delayed disclosing the reasons for Ballares’ disqualification in order to give her time to file an appeal before November 7, or five days before the election on November 12. The screening committee will consider her protest if she files within 48 hours.
“Kapag ang final decision ng screening committee ay talagang disqualified, at si NEA nagsulat din na siya ay ina-approve ang decision ni screening committee na disqualified, ibig sabihin ay postponed na naman ang election sa November 12,” she said.
If the disqualification decision is upheld by the National Electrification Administration (NEA), it will be the fourth district to have its election postponed this year. The lone candidates in District VI in Narra and District IX in Quezon and Rizal were both declared ineligible. District X, which includes Roxas, Dumaran, Araceli, and Cagayancillo, is also vacant due to a lack of a candidate.
After former chair Jeffrey Tan-Endriga of District IX was disqualified, the board held an election and elected Ballares as chair, with Liza Angela Jaranilla of District VIII as vice chair. During his chairmanship, Ballares served as vice chair.
Prior to the deliberation, the electric cooperative received a letter of protest on Thursday from member-consumer-owner (MCO) Antonio Cabrestante.
In his letter, a copy of which was obtained by Palawan News, Cabrestante cited NEA Memorandum No. 2017-036 as the guidelines for allowing another term of office for Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, Member in Good Standing, and NEA Memorandum No. 2017-036, Item No. 2 as the basis for disqualifying her from running in the district election.
Ballares’ pending administrative case, he claimed, was a strong reason for her disqualification.
“Maylene Ballares is not a member in good standing as she was very late in submitting her liquidation of financial obligations in the cooperative. Further, she has incurred disallowances in her liquidation, and she must be mandated to return the full amount of the disallowed expenses that she incurred,” he noted.
“PALECO where Maylene Ballares belongs, is not an AAA electric cooperative in the latest NEA assessment. She, being part of the PALECO Board of Directors, failed in many ways to maintain PALECO in the AAA category. Maylene Ballares is part of a failed management team,” he added.
In a different document that Palawan News also obtained, Ballares and other board members informed congressmen Presley De Jesus and Sergio Dagooc that two candidates had been disqualified due to NEA Audit Findings from 2018 regarding disallowances of the Board of Directors, General Manager, Department Head, and Section Heads.
“The said disallowance was not discussed and there’s no Audit Exit Conference conducted between the Auditors and the Auditees, therefore the rights of the Auditees to be heard and be clarified was clearly violated, as a consequence due process was also violated,” the letter sent on November 2 stated.
It emphasized that the NEA Memo No. 2015-007 cited by NEA Auditors “are very clear, Finance Manager and Internal Auditor of PALECO shall be responsible for monitoring and the General Manager shall
be the one to be held liable.”
Given that the finding was made in 2018 and that many of the affected employees and officers had already retired, the letter also noted that neither the Finance Services Department nor the Internal Audit Department had made any demands.
They asserted that the PALECO management is in charge and that their negligence is “very clear and evident” and that “the Board is now being held hostage by their malicious intent.”
“Also, part of the Disqualification is on the Cash Advances of the Board dutifully liquidated within the policy period of 15 days or within the year but there’s always a lacking document and the Management only gives the Statement Of Account last September 2022 due to the pressure of the Board,” the letter further stated.
There is also an accompanying document stating the attachments on the certificate given by the Finance Service Department (FSD) to Ballares.
It stated that the PALECO FSD issued a statement of account (SOA) to all BODs, including Ballares, in September 2021, informing them of what money they needed to return. Ballares was advised to repay P13,150 for uniforms and money spent to correct an erroneous entry of her name on August 31, 2019.
The FSD sent again another SOA to her and other BODs in September 2022, that shows accounts dating back 2016 to 2018, totalling P11,687.44. The amount was among others about Philfeco meetings.
“Had the Finance Services Department reflected the amounts for refund as provided in 2021, it could have been settled by the Director. Further, there is no Demand to Pay issued by the FSD thus, how will the director settle the said accounts?” the document said.
“The Uniform allowance has attachment herewith, the Minutes of the Meeting dated June 3, 2021, whereby NEA Designated AGM Bienvenida Tongol stated that the right treatment of the uniform allowance should be an outright expense and not subject to liquidation. Hence, the allowance was no longer liquidated,” it added.
It also stated that the board Secretariat submitted the liquidation of the cash advance for the attendance at the PHILFECO Regular Board Meeting and Regulatory Compliance on July 27, 2022, with complete attachments.
“To our surprise, the liquidation was returned because the Acknowledgment Receipt was no longer accepted unlike before that it was honored. PHILFECO was asked to issue an OR which they have complied,” it said.
“An advance copy was forwarded in order to already submit the liquidation for immediate clearance of Dir. Maylene Ballares but was not accepted again because the original copy/physical receipt was required. Though the ‘intent to liquidate’ of the concerned board director is evident and compliant with the Policy of “within 15 days from the official return to office”, the liquidation was recorded in September. Policy on the acceptable/required documents for the liquidation was not clearly given,” it added.
After the scheduled election on November 12, PALECO’s last election will be on November 26 for the southern barangays of the city, from Tiniguiban to Simpocan, covered by District IV. Rebusada also told qualified people to apply and join the board of directors at PALECO.