BAGUIO CITY – The country’s energy sector raised concern on the blatant harassment and unfair treatment that the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) has been receiving from the National Electrification Administration (NEA) following the former’s refusal to recognize the appointment of a general manager being insisted by the Board of Administrators.
Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PHILRECA) Party-list Rep. Presley de Jesus, in his privilege speech delivered in the House of Representatives recently, criticized the lack of respect showed by NEA through their actions not only to BENECO, but also to the House which earlier requested for a status quo in the leadership of one of the country’s top performing electric cooperatives.
He pointed out that the adoption of House Resolution No. 213 which urged the NEA-BOA to strictly adhere to and comply with the provisions of their own policy on the selection of general managers of electric cooperatives, particularly in the case of BENECO, did not hinder the NEA from continuously harassing the officials and employees of BENECO who are just trying to execute their duties in accordance to the policies that are in place.
De Jesus underscored that the resolution urged the NEA to maintain the status quo on retaining the current officer-in-charge of BENECO under pain of contempt until all issues on the selection of general manager of the electric cooperative have been threshed out by the concerned parties and properly resolved.
Further, it also expressly recognized the NEA’s commission of repeated ultra vires acts and warned its officials against perpetrating the same again.
However, the lawmaker disclosed that one month after the passage of the said resolution, PHILRECA and the country’s energy sector were surprised over the totally different actions that was taken by the NEA on the said matter, aside from other actions that tended to undermine the purpose of the resolution.
In the wee hours of October 18, 2021, NEA barged into the BENECO main office along South Drive, accompanied by more than 50 police personnel of the Police Regional Office (PRO) in the Cordillera who were all dressed in full battle gear, to force open locked doors of the main office to insist the general manager of their choice.
He narrated that computers and other paraphernalia were reportedly confiscated without permission from the management while concerned BENECO employees were barred from entering their own office with no clear reason why.
To make matters worse, de Jesus stipulated that the hostile invasion of BENECO was carried out when its Warriors of Light had their hands full with the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure caused by Typhoon Maring.
According to him, the unscrupulous attempt to take over the BENECO office by the NEA was allegedly done to enforce a questionable suspension order for the BENECO Board of Directors for willful violation of NEA rules and if that is really the case, why was the same done in the wee hours of the morning with the aid of fully armed police personnel.
He also questioned why there was a need to use force and intimidation against the officials and employees of the electric cooperative who then feared for their life and safety which in turn affected the services being provided by the electric cooperative.
De Jesus emphasized that people are also wondering on how can the NEA freely accuse the BENECO board of violating the agency’s policies when it is clear that the members of the board are the ones empowered by law to appoint the general manager of their own cooperative, thus, the same is a devious display of power tripping on the part of NEA to pressure the board to bow down to their commands.
De Jesus underscored that another devious misstep NEA took is the appointment of a project supervisor to a well performing electric cooperative when BENECO is known to have set the benchmark of the performance of electric cooperatives all over the country through a consistently content leadership.
He noted that year after year, BENECO has hit the Triple A rating, the highest mark an electric cooperative could receive from NEA itself, thus, the question why should NEA appoint a project supervisor to interfere with the matters of the cooperative when clearly, there is no need to.
Despite their shameless efforts to forcibly take over the headquarters and pressure the cooperative in giving in to their demands, the employees and member-consumer-owners of BENECO were able to take back what is rightfully theirs and more than anything, the consumers proved that it is possible to fight back without resorting to force and intimidation, without armed policemen and 3am surprise raids.
The congressman also assailed the unauthorized withdrawals of the funds of BENECO by NEA-appointed personalities where even the P58.6 million earmarked for the implementation of the government’s Sitio Electrification Program (SEP) was withdrawn without the knowledge of the current management headed by Engr. Melchor S. Licoben.
De Jesus claimed that unfortunately, people will experience the continued disrespect and oppression by NEA if Congress will allow them to get away with their actions without repercussions as NEA does not hold authority and power to take over the management of BENECO, unless the agency can sufficiently prove without a shadow of doubt that it is an ailing cooperative in need of their intervention.
The latest harassment done by NEA was the issuance of another suspension order for 90 days to all the 11 members of the BENECO board and 2 of its department manager for certain violations that again is highly questionable.
De Jesus asserted that PHILRECA takes offense to NEA’s blatant disrespect to the wisdom and decision of the peoples’ representatives that such deplorable and unjust acts by NEA proceeded despite the result of the thorough investigation of the House committee on energy as adopted in a resolution by the House and as if the said resolution is a mere scrap of paper that NEA can freely ignore.