TRO halts Albay electric cooperative’s privatization bid

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Atty. Bartolome Rayco, petitioner- "The outstanding debt of Aleco amounting to P3.7 billion is a result of mismanagement and unabated corruption perpetrated by officials who have run the electric cooperative for the past decade." PHOTO BY RICO MANALLO / BICOLTODAY.COM
Atty. Bartolome Rayco, petitioner- “The outstanding debt of Aleco amounting to P3.7 billion is a result of mismanagement and unabated corruption perpetrated by officials who have run the electric cooperative for the past decade.” PHOTO BY RICO MANALLO / BICOLTODAY.COM

LEGAZPI CITY (24May2013/PNA) – The Regional Trial Court here granted the petition of those who opposed the planned privatization of the near-bankrupt Albay Electric Cooperative for a temporary restraining order, lawyer Bartolome Rayco, a petitioner, said today.

In a two-page court order Judge Ignacio Almodovar of the RTC’s Fifth Judicial Region Branch 2 in this city issued on Monday a TRO stopping the Aleco interim board to proceed with the awarding to the winning bidder for the concession to operate the electric cooperative under the Private Sector Participation scheme.

The court-issued TRO will be effective for 20 days from receipt of the order by the interim board.

Almodovar, upon issuance of the TRO, also set on May 28 the hearing for the issuance of a preliminary injunction asked by Rayco and Darlan Barcelon, both electricity consumers.

At the hearing, the Aleco interim board will give its oral arguments in defending its PSP plan.

It is directed to show cause as to why no preliminary injunction should be granted in this case.

Rayco said in an interview that both parties will be required by the court to submit documentary evidence backing up their claim and names of witnesses to summon once a pre-trial is called for by the presiding judge.

Named respondents to the Civil Case No.11141 for prohibition with application for issuance of TRO and preliminary injunction with damages are Bishop Joel Baylon, interim board chair, and lawyer Ian Macasinag, Jose Misael Moraleda, Magen Del Rosario, Rosario Bombales, Augusto Villalon, Antonio Tan and lawyer Jose Vicente Fernandez, board members.

The court, after hearing the arguments of the parties and upon reading the allegation in the petition as well as the documentaries, was convinced that there is an extreme urgency in this case, necessitating the issuance of a TRO.

Asked to comment on the court TRO, Baylon begged off in a text message not to give reactions because he still has to talk with their lawyers to understand exactly what the TRO means.

The civil case started when Rayco and Barcelon, two electricity consumers in Albay, filed on April 19 a petition asking the RTC here to issue a TRO preventing the Aleco interim board to implement the “privatization” of the debt-ridden electric cooperative.

The petitioners also asked for a writ of prohibition by restraining the members of the interim board from making decision on the affairs of the electric cooperative for reasons that the members of the board were not duly elected by the members of the cooperative as provided by Aleco’s By-Laws.

Rayco said in an interview that the Aleco Board erred in pushing for the PSP proposal which, according to him, was rejected by majority of the member consumers at the special general assembly held on Nov. 30 last year.

Under the PSP option, Aleco shall enter into a contract with a private company that will manage and run Aleco for the next 25 years.

Rayco claimed that the privatization scheme is violative of the franchise of Aleco as an electric cooperative.

The interim board action on the PSP was without any jurisdiction and it committed grave abuse of discretion despite the rejection of the planned privatization, he pointed out.

He also cited that the PSP option of a profit-sharing scheme violates the cooperative’s By-Laws, which states that it will operate as a non-profit public utility.

The Aleco, which is under the supervision of NEA, will held a pre-bid conference next week to look into the proposals of private corporations interested to invest and buy out the cooperative.

The Aboitiz Power is reportedly interested in investing in and operating the electric cooperative despite the close to P4 billion outstanding bills it owes various power producers, National Power Corp., Wholesale Electricity Spot Market and the National Electrification Administration.

The outstanding debt of Aleco amounting to P3.7 billion is a result of mismanagement and unabated corruption perpetrated by officials who have run the electric cooperative for the past decade, he said.(PNA)

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