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The House Committee on Energy compelled the National Electrification Administration–Board of Administrators (NEA-BOA) to strictly adhere or comply with the provisions of NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035 on the selection of general managers of electric cooperatives, particularly in the case of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO), and to take the necessary actions and appropriate solutions to fulfill the NEA’s mandate as specified in Presidential Decree (PD) No. 269, as amended by Republic Act (RA) No. 10531 as a supervisory agency of electric cooperatives (EC).
In a resolution approved by the House Committee, it stated that the NEA-BOA shall revoke RB Resolution No. 2021-47 and other related resolutions as there was no actual vacancy in the position of BENECO general manager and that the same should thoroughly evaluate if the applicants to the position possess all the qualifications provided under NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035 and to endorse the names of all candidates who passed the final interview to the Board of Directors of the EC concerned for appointment of the general manager.
Further, the body reminded the NEA of its commitment to status quo under pain of contempt until all the issues on the selection of BENECO general manager have been resolved.
“Laws, administrative rules and regulations are mandatory and shall be strictly followed and there is no room to breach the rules, not even the NEA itself which has promulgated the rules,” the House Committee resolution stressed.
According to the strongly worded resolution, the NEA, as an instrumentality of the State, shall perform its functions as overseer of the ECs through the exercise of its administrative authority by not only issuing rules and regulations but also to adhere or comply strictly with the same.
Under NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035, there were 2 options that were provided on how an EC Board of Directors can hire or select a new general manager: first, by publication of vacancy and accepting applicants for the position; and second, by recommending a department manager to the NEA.
Moreover, should the EC prefer the first option and open the vacant position for application, then, under item no. III, Section 2, paragraph (b) of the same, the applicant for general manager must pass a pre-qualifying written examination to be administered by the NEA, which shall measure the intelligence quotient, emotional quotient, computer literacy, knowledge of the industry and management perspectives of the applicant and an EC examination to gauge applicants’ knowledge and capability relevant to the operation of the power industry.
Item No. III, Section 2, paragraph (h) of the same states that the list of applicants who pass the final interview shall then be transmitted by the NEA to the EC board for perusal and selection of its general manager.
The resolution noted that applicants who are qualified for final interview should be those applicants who obtain the score of 80 or above, as explicitly stated in the said item and who possess all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications.
If the EC board rejects all pre-qualified applicants from the list of names forwarded to it by NEA, a board resolution shall be submitted to the NEA containing the reasons for the rejection.
On April 30, 2021, the late Gerardo P. Verzosa officially retired from BENECO after serving the EC for more than 4 decades. As part of its approved succession plan and organizational structure, BENECO hired Engr. Melchor S. Licoben, the former assistant general manager, to become the new general manager by making a recommendation and appointment as allowed in the second option in the hiring of an EC general manager as stated in NEA Memorandum 2017-035.
On May 1, 2020, Licoben was appointed as the officer-in-charge of BENECO and was duly confirmed by the NEA on June 24, 2020.
The resolution argued that BENECO did not declare any vacancy in the position of general manager in view and in consideration of Licoben’s appointment to the coveted post.
On the other hand, the NEA considered the position of BENECO general manager vacant in view of the retirement of its previous manager and considered two applicants for the position.
The resolution asserted that the NEA-BOA action clearly constituted an ultra vires act as it acted beyond the metes and bounds of its power and authority as defined by its own Charter, relevant laws, and NEA issuances. Aside from its actions amounting to usurpation of the power of ECs Board to appoint their own officials, particularly the general manager, as provided in the law, as well as its own constitution and by-laws, such act gave unwarranted benefit, advantage, or preference in the discharge of their official administrative functions, through manifestation of partiality and evident bad faith to one’s favored applicant.
The House Committee asserted that the power granted to NEA-BOA and its own issuances is limited only to the screening of the applicants for general managers of ECs and to validate if said applicants possess all the qualifications required by law and none of the disqualifications, based on the established guidelines for reasons that the employer of the said applicants is not the EA but the EC. By HENT