FORTY-SEVEN residents of Zamboanga sued officials of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for alleged graft in approving the investment management contract (IMC) between the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Zamcelco) and Crown Investment Holdings, Inc.

The 23-page complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman was filed on Oct. 11, 2019 against the board of administrators of NEA led by Edgardo R. Masongsong, and board members Rene M. Gonzalez and Alipio Cirilo Badelles.

Included as respondents are Department of Energy (DoE) Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella, who sits as NEA alternate chairman of the board, as well as Crown Investment and its partner Desco, Inc., which were awarded the investment management contract, which the complainants claim was “fraught with irregularities.”

The complainants, which are said to represent various sectors, allege that the board of administrators approved the award of the IMC to Crown and Desco despite their full knowledge of irregularities in the bidding process that violate NEA rules.

The complainants cited the minutes of the NEA board of administrators meeting that showed that even the legal opinion of both the DoE and NEA legal departments pointed to irregularities in the bidding process.

On Aug. 31, the board of Zamcelco awarded the contract to the joint venture of Crown and Desco for the management and operation of the utility. The electric cooperative owed more than P2 billion to its power suppliers.

The complaint also charged Mr. Masongsong of acting beyond his powers provided for by law and, usurping the powers of the NEA board of administrators with his issuance of an order that created a new Zamcelco board. The new board led the way to the execution of the investment management contract.

The complainants want the NEA officials to be held criminally liable for violating the anti-graft law together with the officers of Crown and Desco. They are also asking that the NEA officials be found administratively liable and that they be preventively suspended pending the resolution of the case. — Victor V. Saulon