Council mulls probe into City Hall coop loan mess

The Iloilo City Council will investigate the multimillion-peso loans of the Iloilo City Government Employees Credit Cooperative. (Iloilo City Hall photo)

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

The Sangguniang Panlungsod on Wednesday agreed to investigate the Iloilo City Government Employees Credit Cooperative, after its Board of Directors allegedly took out massive amounts of loans for themselves.

This was sparked by a resolution filed by City Councilor Alan Zaldivar, who was also chairperson of the legislative body’s Committee on Cooperatives.

In his privilege speech on Wednesday, Zaldivar lamented the controversy surrounding the cooperative, adding that this was worse than usual due to the higher expectations set upon them as public officers.

“[C]ooperatives exist to better the economic and social lives of its members who are at the same time its owners. Again, and with emphasis to better the economic and social lives of its members—not of its employees, officers, and members of the board,” Zaldivar said.

“What exactly is the status of our cooperative, or are we in [a] situation where things go like ‘business-as-usual’? There were so many speculations spreading around about mismanagement misappropriation of, injustice, impartiality, selfishness, and greediness by amassing funds from the members and worked in conspiracy at the expense of ordinary members. We truly understand all the sentiments of the members who are employees of the Iloilo City Government,” he added.

Zaldivar said the proposed probe would be a good opportunity for the board to state its side and communicate to its members in the public forum, given the controversy.

“To be an officer or member of the board is not a ticket to abuse an authority or break a policy even if the same does not cause damage or injury to another. You are above no one and an innocent face will never be an exception to the rule,” he said.

The investigation will be conducted by the Committee of the Whole, which is composed of all city councilors and to be presided by Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon.

Zaldivar originally intended his privilege speech to focus on pushing for a city-wide cleanup program in response to the rise of dengue cases in the city, but asked the body to allow him to change his subject during the session, which Ganzon allowed without objection.

It was reported that as of April 2023, the cooperative’s outstanding loans ballooned to ₱23.65 million, with individual loans going as high as ₱5.67 million.

Cooperative members have complained to the media that it may already have run out of money, leaving no possible allocations to other members.

Updated to correct the first paragraph on the entity that will conduct the probe – Sangguniang Panlungsod, not Sangguniang Panlalawigan.