Ombudsman freezes NIA head, scored

It is alarming that a public official’s reputation can be assailed through the Ombudsman over his management style which is required to stop the anomalies at the NIA.

The swift suspension by the Ombudsman of National Irrigation Administration administrator Benny Antiporda elicited comments from members of the House of Representatives who said the suspension is not only questionable but also places at risk the country’s energy supply requirement and irrigation needs.

Antiporda said the allegations hurled against him are part of a demolition job to remove him from office to cover up anomalies he had unearthed in the agency.

“Their objective is to get the President’s notice so I can be removed from office,” he said referring to the NIA’s concerned employees and the agency’s lawyers who submitted petitions to the Ombudsman.

“It is alarming that a public official’s reputation can be assailed through the Ombudsman over his management style which is required to stop the anomalies at the NIA,” Philippine Rural Electric Cooperative Association representative, Presley de Jesus said.

The solon was referring to the complaint filed against Antiporda by two former NIA officials for alleged grave misconduct, harassment, oppression, and ignorance of the law, which was immediately acted upon by the OMB with a 6-month preventive suspension without pay of Antiporda last 15 November.

Missing complaint document

Up to now, however, Antiporda, who immediately complied with the OMB order, has yet to receive a formal copy of the complaint against him.

On the other hand, the OMB is yet to act on the complaint for graft and corruption filed by Antiporda against former NIA Legal Department head, Atty. Lloyd Allain Cudal and former NIA Board secretary, Michelle Gonzales Raymundo last September and October, respectively.

Iloilo Rep. Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda, the first lady solon of Iloilo for her part, also voiced her concern over the OMB’s action.

Baronda said she found it questionable that the OMB immediately suspended Antiporda but failed to take action on the complaints he has filed against Cudal and Raymundo.

The timing of Antiporda’s suspension, she added, is also “suspicious” as it came right after Congress approved the proposed budget of the OMB and while President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who appointed Antiporda, is busy preparing for the APEC meeting.

The other purported complainant was denounced by the NIA Employees Association of the Philippines which said they have not complained against Antiporda but were included as a complainant.

The group even issued a statement of support on his leadership only last September, a support that “still stands and remains unchanged,” said NIAEASP president, Eduardo Yu, in a statement last 16 November 2022.

Policy meant to ‘deceive’?

De Jesus also chided the OMB for using as basis, the allegation by Raymundo and Cudal that Antiporda’s proposal to include the Public-Private Partnership program to hasten the irrigation for an additional 1 million hectares of the country’s farmlands while boosting energy supply as not suitable for NIA and is meant to “deceive” President “Bongbong” Marcos.

De Jesus said that as the leading voice in Congress for the country’s electric cooperatives, tapping the PPP as proposed by Antiporda would also help address the power supply needs in the rural areas.

“Rural electrification is my advocacy. When there are several (water) dams, hydroelectric and solar power plants will also increase.”

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