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Zamcelco as governance riddle

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In its monthly meeting last Saturday, February 19, the principal topic of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP) was “peace and governance”.  The resource person was Department of Interior and Local Government city office acting head Mohammad Taha Arakama, who gave an overview of the various aspects of governance.

The priority thrust of IRSMP this year is “peace and governance”, in tune with society’s and government’s overriding effort to fight and curb corruption as key means to socio-economic progress and consequently the triumph of communal peace.

In the ensuing open forum, one member representing the Commission on Human Rights reminded the gathering about the United Nations’ prescription towards the realization of good governance.  These are 1) transparency; 2) accountability; 3) participation (of all stakeholders or concerned sectors; and, 4) rule of law.

The city’s burning issue and problem regarding alleged massive corruption in and mismanagement of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative (Zamcelco) was brought out in the forum as a “peace and governance” challenge confronting local electric consumers and citizens. One allegation is that consumers have to pay more for Zamcelco’s electricity than they should if there is but none of the alleged corruption and mismanagement.

Going by the major topic of the meeting, which is “peace and good governance”, the Zamcelco controversy was treated to a quick analysis according to the UN formula.

As to transparency, one question raised is how transparent are the procurement and financial transactions of Zamcelco, such as those involving its allegedly overpriced purchases of motor vehicles and so forth.

As to accountability, one question raised is who really regulates or when it is amiss who in the government bureaucracy is mandated to impose sanctions against Zamcelco when and if it commits any irregularities.  Although it calls itself a cooperative, Zamcelco is not under the regulatory supervision of the Cooperative Development Authority, but instead under the National Electrification Administration, which it seems has no power to sanction or punish erring electric coops.

As to participation, the demand by civil society groups led by the Movement for Better Zamboanga for a thorough investigation of and prosecution for the corruption and mismanagement was cited as an example on how this element of good governance is being put into action.   It was noted that the initiative is beginning to show results, albeit slow in coming.

As to rule of law, a lawyer in the forum said that in the Zamcelco instance there would have been no need for the Movement for Better Zamboanga to go to the City Council, as the group did last week, to ask for a resolution to support its demand for the preventive suspension of the Zamcelco general manager during the ongoing investigation of the corruption charges.  According to the law, he said, such a preventive suspension of a government official can be automatically enforced once an administrative charge is lodged against him/her, as in the case of NEA doing so against the Zamcelco management.  Unfortunately, even the councilors appear to have failed to realize that point of law, but voted against the petition of the Movement.  Apparently, the Zamcelco issue requires more light before the sought-after justice to the electric consumers shall be served.  (Peace Advocates Zamboanga)




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