By Dolly Yasa
BACOLOD City – Despite initial resistance, National Electrification Administration (NEA) Administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda said he successfully served the preventive suspension order against the general manager of the Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative (Noceco).
Almeda was about to serve the 90-day suspension order against Noceco general manager, Engr. Ray Bustamante, Thursday at the Noceco main office in Kabankalan when he and NEA personnel were refused entry by security guards manning the gate of the cooperative.
Negros Occidental vice governor Jeffrey Ferrer, who also went to Noceco to know what was happening, was also not allowed to go inside by the guards.
Despite introducing himself as the NEA administrator and showing the suspension order, Almeda was still refused entry.
A group of employees went to the gate and informed Almeda that they have an existing petition in court but the latter said that if they do not have a Temporary Restraining Order, he will enforce the order.
NEA then instructed the padlock cut, after which Almeda together with Ferrer went inside Noceco and proceeded to the boardroom.
Bustamante was not around with some of the employees saying he was on leave.
“We have successfully installed acting general manager Engr. Domingo Santiago Jr., in lieu of general manager Engr. Ray Bustamante who is placed under a 90-day preventive suspension,” Almeda told reporters after he met some of Noceco’s board of directors and top personnel.
He pointed out that “the order is just a preventive suspension for him to submit to NEA a reason or a cause for us not to penalize him administratively on what happened.”
Almeda also said that Bustamante’s appointment as general manager is illegal.
While he was appointed by the board of directors, Almeda said this was not approved by NEA and had “procedural irregularities.”
Almeda said Santiago will be acting manager for the meantime and “until such time we feel things are normalized already, then NEA through the board will direct the opening of the selection of a new general manager for Noceco.”
He also said the orders for both Bustamante and Santiago are effective immediately.
Aside from Bustamante, the board of directors was suspended for 30 days in connection with the former’s appointment.
Ferrer lamented why he was not allowed to enter Noceco’s premises since he is not only the vice governor but a consumer as well.
Bustamante ordered the padlocking of the gate, according to the security guards.
“This is not a private property, and why shouldn’t we be allowed to enter, we the consumers should be aware of our rights,” Ferrer added.
He also stressed he would like to listen to both sides and see what can be done halfway if possible.
But he said Bustamante did not show up and instead used the employees as his shield prompting most of them to leave their post.
Ferrer said he was concerned with the employees whose salaries may be delayed because of their “blind obedience” to Bustamante.
Kabankalan City Mayor Benjie Miranda also showed up and pacified the employees telling them that the NEA order has nothing to do with them and they should continue disposing of their functions.
Almeda assured that no action will be taken against the employees who left their posts as “we understand emotions were high.”