Quirino capitol loses power over P8M debt
CABARROGUIS, Quirino–Power supply at the provincial capitol on Thursday was cut off due to the failure of the provincial government to settle more than P8 million unpaid bills, officials of the local cooperative here.
Lawyer Eleazar Balderas, legal counsel of Quirino Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Quirelco), said power supply to government buildings in Barangay Capitol Hills here has been disconnected after the province failed to comply with the cooperative’s long-standing demand for payment.
Three provincial government-run hospitals–the Quirino Provincial Hospital here, and the district hospitals in Aglipay and Maddela towns–were, however, spared.
Balderas said the Quirelco board ordered to cut the power off after the provincial government did not abide by the agreement they had with Quirelco last year that it would pay the cooperative P500,000 monthly until the balance is fully settled.
“The refusal of the provincial government to settle its obligation is causing great loss on the cooperative. We are constrained to resort to this measure because if we will not do this, the whole province of Quirino will be without power very soon,” he said.
The National Power Corp. has threatened to cut off Quirino’s power supply if the cooperative failed to pay its power bills, Balderas added.
The controversy revived the conflict between the provincial government and the cooperative last year, which began when Quirelco cut off electricity at the capitol over unpaid bills amounting to P6 million.
Power was restored two weeks later after then Gov. Pedro Bacani ordered the payment of P1.4 million to Quirelco, and entered into a settlement that the province would pay the cooperative P500,000 monthly.
It was learned that Thursday’s power outage came barely 30 minutes before Quirelco officials received a copy of the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by Executive Judge Moises Pardo of the Regional Trial Court here prohibiting them from cutting off the capitol’s power supply.
“The TRO became moot and academic because what was intended to be restrained already happened,” Balderas said.
This prompted the provincial government, through lawyer Roldan Ubando, to amend its petition to one that asked the court to order Quirelco to restore power to its offices. The amended petition was granted by the court on Friday afternoon.
Still, Quirelco did not comply with the court order because its issuance was “highly irregular because we we’re deprived of procedural due process”, Balderas said.
“Our office received the summons two hours before the scheduled hearing. The judge issued the order supposedly due to our absence,” he said.
Contacted for comment, Gov. Dakila Carlo Cua assailed disconnection of power as “politically motivated”.
“Although these debts were inherited by my administration from the previous one, I, as the new governor, nevertheless assured (Quirelco officials) that my administration will settle these obligations,” Cua said.
He said the provincial government was looking at entering into a compromise with Quirelco so that the P8-million unpaid bills will be offset by the estimated P13 million in taxes that the cooperative owed the province.
Cua said he issued a manager’s check for P500,000 on Thursday morning, in an effort to avert the imminent power loss at the capitol. However, the Quirelco collection office reportedly refused the payment for undisclosed reasons.
“This is grave injustice committed against our people. (Quirelco officials) should be held liable for the damages,” Cua said, citing the failure of the provincial government to inform the public about the extended period of registration for the Sangguniang Kabataan.