BAGUIO CITY September 02 – Members of the Senate committee on energy criticized officials of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for using non-sense orders to dictate on the affairs of electric cooperatives like the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO), particularly in the appointment of the general manager, which is in gross violation of the self-governance mechanisms of the electric cooperatives.
Senator Raffy Tulfo, chairman of the Senate committee on energy, pointed out that there is a need for NEA to recall all issuances pertaining to their undue interference in the appointment of the general manager of BENECO because it is considered to be lacking of sense when the same were issued.
He underscored that it also lacks sense when the NEA appointed a general manager of BENECO when in fact, the members of the Board of Directors, who are the representatives of the consumers, already unanimously voted to choose a general manager that has the technical expertise and possesses the qualifications for the said position.
Senator Tulfo pointed out that it is awkward for the NEA to be the one to administer the intelligence quotient (IQ) test of an applicant for general manager because the same would be subjective based on the decision of whoever will be in power that defeats the purpose of its supervisory powers over electric cooperatives.
He assured concerned stakeholders that the Senate committee on energy will conduct future hearings that will specifically focus on the BENECO leadership row because he cannot understand why a top performing electric cooperative that offers one of the cheapest power rates in the country could be dictated upon by NEA when it is only empowered to takeover when the state of an electric cooperative is ailing.
For his part, Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa, a member of the Senate Committee on energy, argued that the NEA orders interfering with the affairs of electric cooperatives is actually micro-managing the same which should not be the case because people on the ground managing the electric cooperatives know best compared to the NEA officials and personnel.
He claimed that the questionable NEA orders already defeat the purpose of the government in empowering the people on the ground to strive for what will be the best for the electric cooperatives aside from undermining the State’s policy on local autonomy.
Senator dela Rosa questioned the NEA on why are there still numerous anomalous transactions being entered by electric cooperatives in the different parts of the country when those that are appointed passed the IQ, emotional quotient (EQ) and other important tests being administered by they NEA to ensure that the agency chooses the right people to manage the electric cooperatives.
The senator revealed that it is unfair for NEA to simply take the power of the electric cooperatives in appointing their general manager when they are the ones that know and understand the situation in their respective franchise areas.
Senator Tulfo alleged that the reason why there are still a number of poor performing electric cooperatives in the country is because of the presence of the their ‘padrinos’ who are not well versed of the situation just for them to preserve and protect their interests which is to the gross disadvantage of the consumers having to pay high power cost due to the inexperience of their electric cooperative leaders.
On the other hand, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, former chairman and now a member of the Senate committee on energy, explained that it is clear under the pertinent provisions of Presidential Decree (PD) 269 that created the NEA and Republic Act (RA) 10531 or the NEA Reform Act that the power to appoint general managers of electric cooperatives is vested on the Board of Directors.
The 2-term senator explained that it is only when an electric cooperative is ailing that the NEA can interfere over its affairs.
However, in the case of BENECO, Senator Gatchalian emphasized that it is one of the top performing electric cooperatives in the country that is why it is the board of Directors and not the NEA Board of Administrators that it is empowered to appoint its general manager.
The current BENECO leadership impasse was caused by the insistence of NEA to appoint lawyer Ana Marie Paz Rafael, former Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communication and Operations Office (PCOO), as BENECO general manager when the Board of Directors already selected Engr. Melchor S. Licoben, former BENECO assistant general manager, to be the full pledged general manager pursuant to its NEA approved succession plan way back in 2018.