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Solons to NEA: Hands off electric coop’s GM selection process

December 14, 2021 People's Tonight 271 views

THE discretionary power to appoint a general manager of an electric cooperative exclusively belongs to the board of directors of that firm, and not to the National Electrification Administration (NEA) board of administrators.

The House of Representatives made this crystal clear to the NEA board of administrators, then chaired by Manny Juaneza as it served notice to the NEA to keep its hands off the selection of officials of privately owned electric cooperatives. Juaneza now sits as Admnistrator of NEA.

In a resolution adopted last Sept. 23, the lawmakers noted that the NEA encroached into the private domain of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) by endorsing its own choice for general manager of the distribution utility.

The measure urged the NEA to revoke its recommendation described as an ultra vires act translated roughly as an abuse of discretion or committing an invalid deed beyond its authority to perform.

The House Committee on Energy advised the affected parties to maintain the status quo in the leadership structure of the Beneco “under pain of contempt until all the issues in the selection of the general manager have been resolved.”

“The NEA-BOA (board of administrators), in the exercise of the authority to process the applications for the position of General Manager, took upon itself to interpret and apply certain provisions of its own issuance that will only cater to its own intention considering that even the memorandum it issued has provisions that are clear and precise with no room for misinterpretations,” the resolution stated.

The memorandum identified two options for selection of the general manager. One is to declare the position vacant and accept applications for the position, and two, recommending an applicant to the NEA.

The committee issued the resolution in an apparent bid to rectify the controversial selection of general manager for the Beneco, with the NEA endorsing a certain Anna Maria Paz Rafael-Banaag to replace the sitting general manager, Melchor Licoben, who was an old-timer at the cooperative.

Meanwhile, Licoben has mustered a groundswell of support from his staff, supporters, and stakeholders who invariably dismissed a position by a government regulator and a state counsel disfavoring his retention.

“We employees and consumer-member-owners of BENECO have spoken already—we have expressed our unequivocal support to the management of BENECO, its Board of Directors and they appointed General Manager Engr. Melchor S. Licoben,” the concerned employees said in a letter to Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Energy committee.

“Please respect the decision of the electric cooperative’s employees and member-consumer-owners. NEA and its representatives have tried using force just to implement their biased decision, but we are willing to fight for what is right, and as such, we will continue to be vigilant in guarding our electric cooperative,” the letter stated.