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NBI summons Albay bishop, others over Aleco mess

LEGAZPI CITY – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has summoned to its office in Manila the bishop of Albay and several other personalities accused of inflicting miseries that pulled Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) down on its knees.

Bishop Joel Baylon
The subpoena dated August 8 was served by agents of the NBI’s Anti-Graft Division last August 26 to Albay Bishop Joel Baylon and former barangay chair Jose Zamora of Ubaliw, Polangui, Albay, among others involved in the alleged mishandling of Aleco affairs and rehabilitation fund that led to the power cooperative's bankruptcy and turnover of business to a private entity.

All those subpoenaed, which included Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jericho Petilla, were directed by the NBI to appear at its office in Manila for investigation on September 8, lawyer Oliver Olaybal, legal counsel of the newly reorganized Aleco board of directors on Saturday told the Philippine News Agency here.

The new board was reorganized in a general assembly in Ligao City last June 7 amid the growing power supply problem besetting the cooperative’s over 300,000 member-consumers under the management of the privately owned Albay Power and Energy Corp. (APEC).

Earlier, the new Aleco board asked the investigation bureau to probe into the missing Php 500-million fund allocated for Aleco out of the Php 10-billion Bicol Calamity Assistance and Rehabilitation Effort (BCARE) fund provided by Malacañang under then Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo following super typhoon "Reming" that ravaged the region in September 2006.

In its request for investigation, the board headed by its elected president, Jaime Chua of Ligao City, said that the cooperative’s general assembly had recognized that the root of today’s problems in Aleco is the missing fund intended for the rehabilitation of the distribution system of the power cooperative.

The system was not rehabilitated following its misappropriation that left the cooperative suffering from 24 -percent systems loss, which is equivalent to Php 48 million in monthly deficit or Php 576-million deficit per year, the board said.

The amount was said to be disbursed by Zamora, who was then appointed by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) as project supervisor for the rehabilitation of Aleco.

Had the amount been spent as intended, Aleco would not be having its Php 4-billion deficits that have drawn the cooperative into bankruptcy, leading to the sellout of the cooperative’s business and management to the San Miguel Corp.'s (SMC) Global Power Holdings Corp. that now runs its operations under its newly created subsidiary—APEC, the board stressed.

The new board also asked the NBI “to investigate the sweetheart deal entered into by Baylon and Petilla, among others, with SMC Global, to whom they gave away the business of Aleco practically for free, because the signatories are not authorized by the member-consumers to sign away the business and the assets of Aleco.”

The deal, according to the board, carries with it a substantial variance between the terms of reference and the final document while the stipulated quarterly rental by SMC-APEC of Php 2.1 million would take 476 years before Aleco could accumulate Php 4 billion with which to pay its current obligations.

The variance between the terms of reference and the "concession agreement" consists of the deletion of the provision in the terms of reference requiring the concessionaire or lessee to assume Aleco’s Php 4 billion obligations.

“This variance is fraudulent, amounting to a scam, because the deletion of the one-sentence proviso now costs Aleco member-consumers Php 4 billion,” the board said in the letter to NBI.

Another variance consists also of the insertion into the final document, of a provision authorizing the concessionaire to sub-lease the business and assets of Aleco to APEC, which was not existing on Oct. 29, 2013, the date of contract signing.

“Again, this is fraudulent, because APEC was incorporated two weeks after the signing of the "concession agreement," belying the warranties declared in the document by “SMC Global Power Holdings Corporation” affecting the capability and integrity of the inexistent APEC,” they added.

Meanwhile, according to Olaybal, the new Aleco board is preparing a formal complaint to be sent to Pope Francis at the Vatican over the “mindless intervention of at least three local clerics in the internal affairs of Aleco, who were instrumental in placing the beneficial ownership of the business, franchise and other assets of Aleco, in the hands of APEC, for the benefit of corrupt officials, clerics and businessmen, through corporate layering.”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will be furnished a copy of the formal complaint, he added. --by Danny Calleja (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/SSC
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