FOR the Benguet Electric Cooperative(BENECO) Employees Labor Union, one prayer has been answered.
For several weeks now, employees of BENECO have held evening vigils for a positive board resolution on their prayer that Engineer Melchor Licoben stays as their general manager.
Licoben’s position was rocked by National Electrification Administration Board of Administrators (NEA-BOA) Resolution No. 2021-47 dated April 29, 2021 endorsing Atty. Anna Maria Paz Rafael as sole candidate for the position of general manager of BENECO, which goes against the earlier appointment of Licoben by the BENECO board as general manager on April 21, 2020 upon the retirement of the late Gerardo Verzosa.
In compliance with the directive of the NEA-BOA to act on their endorsement of Atty. Rafael as a candidate for the position of GM, the 11-member BENECO board held a five-hour deliberation where they rejected the position of the NEA-BOA and instead reiterated the appointment of Engr. Licoben as BENECO GM in a 6-4 vote.
Esteban Somngi, president of the BENECO board, said in a quick press briefing that the BENECO board had by majority vote opposed the NEA-BOA resolution and instead reiterated their appointment of Engr. Licoben as GM.
Somngi said that the official BENECO board resolution stating their position will immediately be forwarded to the NEA-BOA this coming week for their perusal and action. He said in the same breath that he cannot speculate on the action of NEA-BOA. Asked what they would do if the NEA-BOA should insist on their original endorsement, Somngi said that they will cross the bridge when the issue is brought to the table. “We shall go by the laws,“ he said.
While Somngi did not elaborate on the reasons of not accepting Resolution 2021-47, earlier arguments brought to court by five consumers of BENECO made clear some positions why Licoben should stay as GM.
The BENECO BOD said that while the NEA has the power to approve or disapprove under some conditions a GM appointment made by the BOD, the NEA did not categorically disapprove Licoben’s appointment, but instead entertained the application of Atty. Anna Maria Paz Rafael and directed Licoben to also file an application to the position which he had been earlier appointed to by the rightful authority.
In Resolution No. 2020-165 dated April 28, 2020, the BENECO board requested the NEA to confirm the appointment of Licoben, then the AGM, as the GM of Beneco upon effectivity of Veroza’s retitement.
NEA, through Administrator Edgardo Masongsong, in response wrote the BENECO BOD on August 7, 2020 to inform them that Rafael had filed an application for the same GM position of BENECO. It was mentioned that at the time of her filing said application, she was an Assistant Secretary (ASEC) at the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), and still is to the present. In reaction, the BENECO board informed NEA that the appointment of Engr. Licoben as GM of BENECO was already foreclosed, in effect saying that at the time of application of Atty. Rafael, there was no vacancy for the position as Engr. Licoben had already been appointed as GM on April 21, 2020.
But NEA-BOA followed this through with the decision to endorse only the candidate who garners the highest score in the final interview, to which Licoben got a lower score of 82.75 percent against Rafael who scored 94 percent. This was seen as a clear grave of discretion and excessive exercise of jurisdiction, aside from a straying away from rules approved by NEA-BOA itself on the matter of qualifications which include a bachelor’s degree in either Engineering, Business Administration/ Finance Management, Accountancy, or Behavioral Science; at least five years experience with proven track record in effective management of a successful electric utility-related business enterprise; must have held at least two or more senior management positions involving business leadership or managerial functions, all of which Rafael had none and which Licoben possessed.
This also deprived the BENECO BOD the right to choose its own GM.
Now Congress has entangled itself in the brouhaha with the filing of House Resolution 1776 by Representative Presley De Jesus of PHILRECA Partylist, Congressman Adriano Ebcas of Ako Padayon Pilipino, Congressman Sergio Dagooc representing APEC Partylist, and Congressman Godofredo Guya representing RECOBODA Partylist Presley De Jesus representing PHILRECA Partylist, Congressman Adriano Ebcas representing Ako Padayon Pilipino Partylist, Congressman Sergio Dagooc representing APEC Partylist, and Congressman Godofredo Guya representing RECOBODA Partylist, urging the Committee on Energy to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the overreach of NEA on the screening, selection, and appointments of general managers of electric cooperatives and to revisit, define and review its mandate, powers and functions for that purpose.
HR 1776 emphasized ,“The power granted to the NEA Board of Administrators by law and to its own issuances is limited only to a mere screening of the applicants for GMs of ECs and to validate if said officials possess all the qualifications required by law and none of the disqualifications, based on established guidelines.” They added that NEA does not have the power to select and appoint the GM or the power to designate a “probable appointee” for the position of General Manager of BENECO.”
The representatives echoed the sentiment of disgruntled supporters on the position of the BENECO board on their right to choose their own GM which was contradicted by the NEA-BOA’s endorsement of a single candidate.
A call was made to the NEA-BOA to rectify their action which did not go through the proper procedure despite the provisions of the law giving independence to electric cooperatives to select and appoint their own general manager.
The 121 electric cooperatives across the country are one in prayer with the BENECO Employees Labor Union as they fear that they may suffer the same fate of having the NEA-BOA breaching the very clear processes in choosing their own GM.
It’s not over yet even while the BENECO board has stood its ground on the matter of choosing their own GM
Jefford Monang, president of the BENECO labor union, said that their nightly prayer vigil will continue until their prayers are answered with finality.