Group upholds BENECO’s independence to select general manager

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BAGUIO CITY – The Philippine Association of Technical Managers of Electric Cooperatives (PHILATMEC) expressed its unconditional support to Benguet Electric Cooperative’s (BENECO’s) independence and power to appoint and select its own general manager following the controversies that cropped up after the National Electrification Administration–Board of Administrators (NEA-BOA) virtually assumed that power when it endorsed only one applicant, lawyer Ana Marie Rafael, to the aforesaid post that deprived the incumbent officer-in-charge, Engr. Melchor S. Licoben, to compete for the same.

Rafael is the current Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) while Licoben is the incumbent BENECO assistant general manager who rose from the ranks and is an expert in the power distribution industry.

Under the resolution of the group whose membership comes from the 121-strong electric cooperatives in the country, it stated that the decision of the NEA-BOA to endorse only a single applicant when both applicants for the position of general manager passed the initial screening and final interview based on the released results is inconsistent with the intent of Republic Act (RA) 10531, or the NEA Reform Act, and is unlawful arrogation unto itself of the power and independence accorded to the electric cooperatives to select a qualified applicant for general manager.

The group also urged the NEA-BOA to rectify the aforesaid evident error, rescind and retract RB Resolution No. 2021-47, and follow what is prescribed by law and provided for in the relevant NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035 and No. 2018-004.

Further, the PHILATMEC will maximize awareness of all stakeholders through strengthened information and education campaign in traditional platforms and social media for the member-consumer-owners to understand the issues behind such outrage among the 121 electric cooperatives in the country on the obviously biased and unfair treatment of the NEA-BOA on the applicants that gives undue advantage to the alleged unqualified and inexperienced Palace official.

RA 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), mandates the country’s electric cooperatives to ensure and accelerate the total electrification of the country anchored on the main goal of providing quality, reliable and affordable electricity to their member-consumer-owners.

According to the group, the leadership of the electric cooperative, through the general manager, plays a crucial role in the attainment of such objectives the reason for which the NEA has prescribed the appropriate qualifications and the proper procedures in the selection and hiring of general managers of electric cooperatives.

Under NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035, the NEA approved policy on the selection, hiring, terminal of service and suspension of general managers of electric cooperatives, stated that ‘the successful operation of an electric cooperative as a service enterprise depends in substantial degree upon the effectiveness of its general manager. It is, therefore, essential that a competent, dedicated person of high integrity be selected for this position. This is the major responsibility of the Board of Directors.’

The group pointed out the rigorous process in the selection of the general manager was further emphasized and elucidated in NEA Memorandum No. 2018-004 where both NEA memoranda declared that the NEA shall perform the screening of general manager applicants and should the applicants be qualified, they shall be endorsed to the NEA-BOA for further evaluation and final interview.

Moreover, the PHILATMEC stipulated that the NEA memorandum clearly provided that ‘the list of applicants who passed the NEA board final interview, with necessary information and results of the background investigation, shall then be transmitted to the electric cooperative board for selection.’

From the list of the names forwarded by NEA, the electric cooperative shall select the general manager of their choice. In the event that the board rejects all pre-qualified applicants, a board resolution shall be submitted to NEA containing valid reasons for such rejection which shall then be evaluated, and if found reasonable, the entire selection process may again be undertaken at the expense of the electric cooperative. However, if the reasons given are unreasonable, the NEA shall appoint from among the pre-qualified applicants. The Electric cooperative board shall then be informed of such appointment.

The PHILATMEC argued that the aforesaid rules appear to have been deliberately breached by the NEA-BOA in the case of BENECO where 2 applicants for general manager were processed by the BOA.

Ironically, the assailed BOA resolution was based on the recommendation of the NEA board of governance, nomination, and renumeration committee chaired by NEA board member Agustin L. Maddatu which decided to endorse only the candidate with the highest score in the final interview despite the fact that both applicants passed the initial screening and final interview of the NEA-BOA.

Moreover, the questioned BOA resolution did not adhere to the provisions of NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035 which provided that the BOA must endorse to the board of the electric cooperative all the qualified applicants and that there is no basis in law for the NEA-BOA to unilaterally decide to endorse to the BENECO board the applicant with the highest score in the final interview since nowhere in the memorandum can be found an expressed provision that the BOA is given the sole discretion, much more the authority and power to decide that only the applicant with the highest score in the final interview will be endorsed to the Board. By HENT

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