OGCC opinion is not binding – BENECO

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BAGUIO CITY – Officers of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) labor unions underscored that the opinion rendered by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) favoring the questionable National Electrification Administration – Board of Administrators (NEA-BOA) that endorsed an unqualified and not recommended applicant for the position of general manager of the electric cooperative is a mere opinion and the same does not bind the courts, the House committee on energy of the House of Representatives and BENECO itself.

In their rebuttal to the OGCC opinion, Jefferd Mongan, president of the BENECO Employees Labor Union, and Jason Wayet, president of the BENECO Supervisors Association (BSA), argued that it is not because the opinion that the same becomes absolutely correct.

Based on the outcome of the hearing conducted by the House committee on energy, the BENECO labor union officers pointed out that the OGCC opinion will only be as good to the ones who brandish it and that no one can be compelled to accept an opinion.

Earlier, the OGCC opined that the NEA-BOA faithfully complied with NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035 and NEA Memorandum No. 2018-04 when it issued NEA-BOA Resolution No. 2021-47 which endorsed the applicant that garnered the highest score in the final interview to the BENECO Board of Directors for appointment as general manager of the electric cooperative.

Further, the OGCC stated that the action NEA took was justified since under Presidential Decree (PD) No. 269, as amended by Republic Act (RA) 10531, the NEA is empowered to exercise such powers and do such things as may be necessary to carry out the business and purposes for which the NEA was established or which from time to time, may be declared by the BOA as necessary, useful, incidental or auxiliary to accomplish such purpose.

However, BENECO disagreed with such opinion, citing that the exercise of supervisory powers is not absolute as the NEA-BOA cannot just set aside the mandate of NEA Memorandum 2017-035 which provided that from the list of names forwarded by NEA, the EC Board 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 said valid reasons for such rejection which shall be evaluated, and if found reasonable, the entire selection process may again be undertaken at the expense of the EC. However, if the reasons given are unreasonable, the NEA shall appoint from among the pre-qualified applicants.

The BENECO labor union officers claimed that the NEA-BOA did not provide any justification why it only endorsed the candidate with the highest score in the final interview for appointment to the contested position and neither did it provide an extremely necessary nor any compelling and justifiable reason why it decided to endorse only one candidate.

According to the labor union officers, the supervisory power of the NEA over electric cooperatives come in the form of the rules and memoranda it issues including the rules on the selection of the general manager and such rules have the force and effect of law and that all parties affected by such rules, including the NEA-BOA, are bound to follow the same.

BENECO asserted that the NEA-BOA cannot be given a license to violate such rules at its whim and caprice.

The two officers emphasized that it is pretty obvious that the intent of NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035 is that the NEA performs the selection process but the electric cooperative through the board shall be the one to decide, choose and select the general manager.

Moreover, the NEA promulgated its rules on selection and no amount of police power would dissuade the fact that such rules must be followed to the hilt, particularly when any attempt to tweak the same would prejudice the rights of another.

When the BENECO board appointed Engr. Melchor S. Licoben as the general manager based on Resolution No. 2020-090, it was pursuant and in conformity to NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035 that provided 2 options for the selection of a general manager, through a publication of the vacancy and the option to choose among the department managers to become the general manager. By HENT

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