House members defend Antiporda, hit Ombudsman's unusually swift suspension order

Two House members have assailed the Ombudsman's unusually swift suspension of National Irrigation Administration (NIA) administrator, Benny Antiporda, saying the suspension is not only questionable but also puts to risk the country’s energy supply requirement and irrigation needs.

NIA Administrator Benny Antiporda (Facebook)

“Nakakabahala na ang isang magaling na tao ng gobyerno ay sisirain ng Ombudsman dahil lang sa kanyang management style na tama lang naman na gawin dahil maraming anomalya sa NIA (It's alarming for the Ombudsman to destroy the reputation of a good man just because of his management style, which is actually correct given the glut of anomalies in NIA),” said Philippine Rural Electric Cooperative Association (Philreca) Party-list Rep. Presley de Jesus.

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 six-months preventive suspension without pay of Antiporda last Nov. 15, 2022.

Up to now, however, Antiporda, who immediately complied with the OMB order, is 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, lawyer Lloyd Allain Cudal and former NIA Board secretary, Michelle Gonzales Raymundo last September and October, respectively.

For her part, Iloilo City lone district Rep. Julienne ‘Jamjam’ Baronda, the first lady solon of Iloilo, 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 the latter had 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 "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., who appointed Antiporda, was busy preparing to leave for the APEC meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

The other purported complainant, the NIA Employees Association of the Philippines (NIAEASP), had already denounced their inclusion as complainant against Antiporda, stressing they 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 Nov. 16.

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 (PPP) program to hasten the irrigation for an additional ome million hectares of the country’s farmlands while boosting energy supply as not suitable for NIA and is meant to “deceive” President 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. Kapag nakapagtayo ng maraming dams, marami rin ang maitatayong hydro electric power at solar power plants (The more water dams we have, the more hydro electric and solar power plants we can build).

“At dahil sa PPP proposal ni Antiporda, siguradong dadami ang proyekto na makakatulong din sa electricity problem sa rural areas (And because of Antiporda’s PPP proposal, there is sure to be an increase in projects that will help solve the electricity supply problem in rural areas),” De Jesus pointed out.