The Office of the Ombudsman has placed National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Administrator Benny Antiporda under preventive suspension for six months following administrative complaints filed by several NIA employees against him.
In a five-page order, Ombudsman Samuel Martires ordered the suspension after NIA employees Lloyd Allain Cudal and Michelle Gonzales Raymundo complained against Antiporda for allegedly committing conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, grave misconduct, harassment, oppression, and ignorance of the law.
“After a careful evaluation of the records, this Office finds that among the respondents, Respondent Benny Antiporda’s guilt is strong and that the case against him… may warrant his removal from the service,” the order read.
At a media briefing in Quezon City, Antiporda claimed a “big-time syndicate” at NIA was behind the complaints filed against him with the Ombudsman, which were part of a “smear campaign.”
He also offered to resign “to avoid embarrassing the appointing authority.”
“I asked permission from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on my corruption campaign at the agency. I don’t think I did something illegal,” he told reporters.
According to the Ombudsman, Antiporda was displeased when NIA lawyers opined that the most senior officer of NIA was Ricardo Visaya, and that the latter should retain his post as administrator.
But he said in Filipino: “The accusations were wrong; it’s very misleading for me to retaliate against people. Did you know that majority of employees here were promoted? How can it be retaliatory?”
The former Environment undersecretary, accompanied by his lawyer Mike Mella, believes that those he earlier sued for graft at the Ombudsman have something to do with his suspension, along with another agency official.
He also told GMA News Online the accusations were “baseless” and merely “petty allegations.” He confirmed receipt of the order and said he would comply with it.
Antiporda singled out NIA corporate board secretary Raymundo, who accused him of harassment when he got mad at her for refusing to certify his appointment.
In September, Antiporda filed a criminal and administrative complaint against NIA’s legal officer Cudal and another lawyer, Mary Annabelle Domingo, before the Ombudsman after the Court of Appeals ordered NIA to pay a private contractor nearly P206 million.
“I have not received any information about the complaint (filed by Raymundo). My office was padlocked on Tuesday,” he said.
“I called on the Ombudsman not to allow itself to be used by the syndicate,” he added.
Antiporda said Raymundo insisted he was only an administrator in an acting capacity who can be replaced any time after a year, which the complainants said sowed demoralization among employees.
Mella said the NIA Employees Association of the Philippines, in a Nov. 16 official statement, “categorically denied any role in the case filed” against Antiporda.
Antiporda said the complaint filed by Raymundo and Cudal was just meant to humiliate the President.
“When I arrived at NIA, it seemed that (some of) the people there would like that business was still as usual. I ordered a re-organization, a prerogative of mine,” he said.
Antiporda promised the President he would eradicate corruption at the NIA within a year to ensure public money is spent properly.
“Sad to say, I have to admit that the syndicate is mightier than me. It seems that is the direction. It has the support of the contractors,” he said.