A dozen officers of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund-Oil Mills Group resigned Friday to protest President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of fellow board member Rehan Lao as the chief executive officer of the government firm—a development that didn’t surprise Malacañang.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the CIIF-OMG officials “voluntarily tendered their resignations” and were there merely in a holdover capacity.
This was also confirmed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who noted the officials had been serving as holdovers since their term expired on June 30 last year.
Medialdea, in a radio interview, said it was up to Duterte who to appoint as president of the state-run firm. He also asked the departing CIIF-OMG officials, led by board chairman Eddie Delima and CEO Benedicto Lor, to respect the President’s decision to pick Lao as the new president.
Aside from the resignations, over 170 personnel also signed an “expression of support” for Delima and Lor.
But, Medialdea said: “As a matter of fact, there is no need for them to resign. We have all the right to change them.”
“We have to put some members of the Board. We cannot leave it that way and we don’t want to be accused of noncompliance,” he added.
Lao is also the current national president of Sulong ang Pag-Unlad Movement, a group that has been supporting Duterte’s right-hand man, Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, who is reportedly running for senator in the 2019 elections.
Lao was appointed to the CIIF-OMG board last June 28 before being promoted to the helm.
Delima, Lor, and the other officials claimed they were pressured to accept Lao’s appointment to the firm’s board.
Owing to their resignation, all three of the firm’s oil mills have stopped operating.
A conglomerate established in the 1970s, CIIF-OMG runs three oil mills in Iligan, Albay, and Batangas. Its operating plants have a combined annual crushing capacity of 370,000 metric tons of copra, with a refining capacity of 240,000 metric tons of different grades of processed coconut oils.
Apart from making the local coconut cooking oil brand Minola, which has been in the local market for over half a century, the oil mills’ total crushing capacity creates about a tenth of the country’s coconut oil milling industry, the CIIF website said.
Delima said the officials questioned Lao’s appointment due to his “incompetence” and questionable credentials, noting they had filed a complaint with the Governance Commissions for GOCCs against him for violation of fit and proper rule and for question of integrity.
Last week, they also filed another case against Lao with the Ombudsman for the non-filing of his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. He was Head Executive Assistant at the Civil Service Commission before being named to the CIIF.
Delima also said Lao misrepresented himself as a lawyer. According to their research, Lao holds a law degree but did not pass the bar exam.
Former CIIF-OMG vice president Joven Evangelista, who was also interviewed on the same radio station, also claimed that Lao faces administrative case before the Office of the Ombudsman after four CIIF-OMG directors filed a misrepresentation complaint against him.
A multibillion-peso investment company, CIIF-OMG was established for the benefit of Filipino coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry.
It is composed of six oil mill companies that were acquired using the controversial coco levy funds during the term of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
In a recent letter to the government-owned firm, Medialdea informed the CIIF-OMB Board that President Duterte approved the nomination of Lao as its new president.
The firm’s stakeholders, however, assailed the nomination and urged CIIF-OMB management to defer action on the confirmation of Lao for “lack of competence, experience and of his questionable character and background.”
It said Medialdea’s letter should be returned to the Office of the President “for reevaluation and probable investigation.”