ALECO members search for missing P300 million fund

Legazpi diocese Bishop Joel Zamudio Baylon, one of the strong proponents for the privatization of ALECO, an opportunity grabbed by San Miguel Energy Corporation to incorporate the Albay Power Energy Corporation after it (SMEC) won the bidding which sidetracked the will of the consumers and employees of the cooperative.

LEGAZPI CITY — In the quest for a final disclosure on the fate of the missing P300 million electric cooperative fund, member-consumers are knocking at the turf of former ALECO board chairman and Albay Catholic Bishop Joel Baylon.

Concerned member-consumers of Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) are seeking an explanation from the province’s Catholic bishop as to what happened to some P300-million fund the power cooperative, under his watch as chair of its now-defunct interim board of directors, has collected from them through special payment schemes.

“We want to know from Bishop Joel Baylon what happened to the fund or how it was disbursed during his incumbency as interim board chair before the cooperative’s business operations were taken over early this year by a private corporation,” the Aleco Multi-Sectoral Stakeholders Organization Inc. (AMSSO) on Friday here said.

AMSSO president Bartolome Rayco said the missing fund involves some P266 million representing collections from a Special Payment Agreement (SPA) and special recovery program (SRP) that were both allowed by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in August and September 2011, respectively.

Rayco said the collections through these special arrangements were intended for the payment of electricity consumption bills from the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC).

The SPA, which was equivalent to 10 percent of the total cost of power consumption of member-consumers, was inserted in the monthly bills in the form of advance payment by the consumers up to December while the SRP was for losses due to pilferages whose collection was supposed to end in six years until 2017 to meet at least the Php440-million goal.

Rayco said Aleco records show SPA collection as of January 2013 was pegged at P165.6 million and about P100 million from SRP collected in two years until the cooperative’s business as the sole power retailer in the province was awarded late last year by the Department of Energy (DOE) to San Miguel Corp.’s Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMC-Global).

Aleco’s privatization — worked out by the National Electrification Administration (NEA), DOE under Sec. Jericho Petilla, Baylon and supported by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda — came from behind of the cooperative’s bankruptcy.

It was said to be intended to bail out the cooperative from such financial troubles resulting from mismanagement, graft and corruption and deep political meddling by prominent local politicians, which resulted to some Php4-billion financial liabilities.

SMC Global’s formal take-over of the businesses of Aleco using its newly form subsidiary, Albay Power and Energy Corp. (APEC), to run it came in March this year, which also abolished the interim board headed by Baylon.

The Albay bishop has remained silent over the demand for explanation involving the missing fund as he has not made himself publicly vocal and visible concerning Aleco matters since then.

Before his appointment to the interim body, Baylon was an open critic of Aleco management then under NEA and its privatization plan.

On April 23, 2010, he issued a pastoral Letter against privatization which inspired civil society groups led by his Dioceses’ Social Action Center (SAC) into the organization of a Multi-Sectoral Stakeholders Committee, which later evolved into the AMSSO, a multi-sectoral stakeholders coalition advocating for power consumers’ protection.

On Jan. 23, 2013, AMSSO was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the advice of Baylon.

In Sept. 2010, AMSSO convened a general assembly of Aleco member-consumers which passed a resolution calling for the resignation NEA and members of the then existing board of directors (BOD).

A month later, Baylon was installed as chair of the crisis committee formed through the intercession of local politicians, which was later converted into the Interim Board of Directors (IBOD).

That silenced Baylon from criticizing the NEA-managed cooperative and worked hand in hand with it in the formulation of the SPA and SRP.

Claiming that the IBOD had the authority, Baylon took part in the privatization process of the cooperative into the hands of SMC Global.

And while the search for the missing fund is on, the newly organized Aleco management, now headed by Jaime Chua, is also processing the filing of a case in court in a bid to win back the cooperative from SMC-APEC.

“Considering the absence of consent on the part of the member-consumers for the lease of the franchise and the assets of Aleco, the cooperative, under its new Board of Directors, shall be filing a court petition for quo warranto, assailing the right of SMC Global/APEC to exercise the cooperative’s corporate powers, operate its franchise and utilize its assets,” Chua said.

Last Aug. 25, Aleco served APEC with a letter repudiating its hostile management takeover of the business, franchise and other assets of the cooperative.

The repudiation letter is required for the judicial recovery of the facilities from APEC.

The Anti-Graft Division of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is also investigating the alleged “sweetheart deal” entered into by Baylon, Petilla and NEA 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 the business and the assets of Aleco, Chua said. (PNA report by Danny Calleja)


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