PCA chief suspended on corruption case, but defies board order

MANILA – Philippine Coconut Authority administrator Avelino “Billy” Andal has been ordered suspended while issues of corruption against him are being investigated.

According to Atty. Halmen Valdez, undersecretary at the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the PCA Board made the decision after receiving information that Andal was behind his employees’ alleged extortion of P1.50 per board foot of trees being cut in Basilan, Mindoro, Marinduque and Quezon.

Though the “fee” collected seems small, the total amount extorted could reach P90 million in Basilan alone.

PCA deputy administrator Glenn Santos was designated officer in charge of the agency.

Andal said the suspension order was unfair because he was not given a chance to explain his side.

He said he had already relieved the employees involved in the anomaly while awaiting their explanation.

He suspects the issue of corruption is being used to take him out of the agency.

As of now, he said he will not heed the board resolution especially considering a meeting was not called to discuss his case and the resolution was not signed by all board members.

He said he will continue in his post as administrator until he has seen verified copies of the complaint against him.

3rd GOCC snagged in corruption?

It is the third time that an administrator of a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) was ensnared in corruption issues, following controversies at the National Food Authority and National Irrigation Administrator.

Andal believes it is part of the handiwork of a faction within the Duterte administration.

Atty. Valdez said, however, “ultra vires ang acts. Null and void. ‘Wag nya antagonize ang board. The board can easily call for an election.”

Andal appealed to them, however, to play fair and not contrive charges just to yank him out of the agency.”[They issued a] resolution [based on a supposed] meeting when in fact no meeting took place. How can you believe a board resolution that was not signed by everyone.”

Andal said the order is premature, “a kangaroo decision by kangaroo governing board. The bad thing about it is they didn’t give me a chance to explain before making a decision.”

“My belief, it’s Usec Halmen Valdez…katulad din na nangyayari sa NFA. NIA first, then NFA, PCA. Alam ko tinatrabaho na ang NHA [National Housing Authority].”

Andal vowed to “defend myself in court,” but in the meantime said he will “perform my duties [because it would be] abdication [if I leave this to]…whoever will assume my post.” That person, he warned, could be liable for “usurpation of authority.”

Not a penalty

Valdez, meanwhile, explained that preventive suspension is not a penalty but a “preventive measure, and a preparatory act to give way to a fair investigation.”

The PCA board has “received numerous affidavits, sworn statements and receipts related to the alleged illegal collection of 1.50 pesos per board foot of lumber in Basilan” by “trusted employees” of Andal, said Valdez.

“We also received sworn statements stating that he is the mastermind of such scheme. Other areas include Mindoro, Marinduque and Quezon.”

Valdez noted that “P1.50 per board ft sounds small, but with 400,000 trees to be cut (as a debris management process post cocolisap treatment) it will reach around P90 million in Basilan alone.”

In fact, added Valdez, Andal received a letter from Special Assistant to the President Bong Go asking him to explain. In response, Andal “suspended his people who are involved (the accomplices and accessories). Hence, it follows that the board should suspend the principal (Andal).”

Source and courtesy of Shyla Francisco, News5 | Bloomberg TV Philippines | Photo from Philippine Coconut Authority
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