Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator Avelino Andal was placed under preventive suspension while facing investigation for alleged corruption in the sale of coco lumber, the Office of the Cabinet Secretary announced on Monday.
The PCA board, according to Halmen Valdez, undersecretary at the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, 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 the provinces of Basilan, Mindoro, Marinduque and Quezon.
“The [PCA] board has received numerous affidavits and sworn statements and receipts related to alleged illegal collection of P1.50 per board foot of lumber [being made by]Administrator Andal’s trusted employees,” Valdez said in a text message.
Although the collected “fee” may seem small, he added, the total amount allegedly extorted will reach P90 million.
Valdez noted that more than 400,000 coconut trees are expected to be cut down in Basilan alone.
Andal was the third executive of a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) linked to corruption.
National Irrigation Authority (NIA) Administrator Peter Lavinia was sacked by President Rodrigo Duterte for allegedly receiving “40 percent” from irrigation projects, while National Food Authority Administrator (NFA) Jason Aquino was tagged for making a cash cow out of government-led rice importations.
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Likening himself to Emperor Julius Caesar who was assassinated by a cabal of conspirators from the Roman Senate and Army, Andal said the suspension order was an unjust, unfair and oppressive exercise against him because he was not given a chance to explain his side.
He added that he was preventively suspended without any verified complaints and was denied his elementary right to confront his accusers or present his side of the matter.
“The minds behind this conspiratorial plot to unceremoniuosly unseat me even had the temerity to systematically misrepresent and mislead the trust and well-meaning anti-corruption sentiment of some PCA career officials and employees,” Andal said.
There is a pattern of wide-ranging conspiracy covering various GOCCs such as the PCA, NIA, NFA and National Housing Authority, according to the PCA administrator.
“[This] is part of a demolition job by some vested interest groups that have wormed their way in and cozied up to the Duterte government after they jumped ship from the past regime,” Andal said.
He added that there is a small group who wants to remove him because of his earnest moves to uproot corruption and that the “conspirators” fear to be caught in the anti-corruption drive in the agency.
Andal said he will not recognize the effectivity of the supposed board resolution, calling it a “bogus order.”
He added that he will continue to discharge his duty as PCA administrator.
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.”
She denied that the PCA chief was not informed of the matter.
“In fact, Andal received a letter from [Special Assistant to the President] Bong Go asking him to explain what he did. However, Andal suspended his people who are involved [the accomplices and accessories], hence it follows that the board should suspend the principal [Andal],” Valdez said. JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ