Senators chide NEA exec on BENECO leadership impasse

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BAGUIO CITY – Some members of the Senate committee on finance chided newly installed National Electrification Administration (NEA) Administrator Emmanuel Juanesa for the agency’s failure to allegedly instill stability in the leadership of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO), one of the country’s top performing electric cooperatives, when it insisted to appoint an unqualified and not recommended applicant for the position of general manager.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on energy and a member of the Senate committee on finance, pointed out that NEA has no authority to interfere with the affairs of BENECO in the appointment of its general manager because it is not an ailing electric cooperative, thus, it is the prerogative of the Board of Directors to appoint the general manager.

He reminded NEA officials that the regulating agency can interfere with the affairs of an electric cooperative if it is declared to be ailing and in the case of BENECO, it is not an ailing cooperative, thus, the undue interference of NEA is not needed as it is one of the top performing electric cooperatives in the country which can independently select its general manager pursuant to established rules and regulations enshrined under NEA Memorandum No. 2017-035.

Senator Gatchalian criticized the recent forcible takeover by NEA with the aid of heavily armed police personnel of the BENECO main headquarters in the wee hours of October 18, 2021 that caused an outrage among member-consumer-owners (MCOs) who used their own force to retake the same from the hands of NEA personalities.

For her part, Senator Imee Marcos also branded the forcible takeover of the BENECO main headquarters in the guise of serving the preventive suspension order of some members of the BENECO board and the incumbent general manager as a show of too much force as those being served such order are unarmed, thus, the need for an in-depth investigation on the matter to ascertain the responsible persons who will be charged for their offenses.

Senator Marcos supported the move of Gatchalian to call for a Senate inquiry on the matter to ascertain the over-reach of NEA on its powers that is now causing the leadership impasse in one of the country’s top performing electric cooperatives so as not to jeopardize the implementation of the government’s rural electrification program.

The senator claimed it is unfortunate that NEA had to resort to using armed police personnel to takeover the BENECO main headquarters just to merely serve the preventive suspension of some officials as there had been more peaceful means to do so to avert the occurrence of a worst case scenario that may spin out of the control.

Earlier, MCOs, local leaders and the 121-strong Philippine rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PHILRECA) sought the intervention of the Senate in trying to instill law and order in BENECO because the present leadership crisis is not doing good in the continued discharge of the duties and responsibilities of BENECO officials and employees who have been caught in the crossfire of the feuding parties.

The BENECO leadership is being contested by Engr. Melchor S. Licoben who was appointed as the general manager by the Board of Directors on April 21, 2020 by virtue of Resolution No. 2020-90 and lawyer Ana Marie Paz Rafael who was appointed by the NEA Board of Administrators only on April 29, 2021. By HENT

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