October 7, 2022

This has reference to the open letter of Councilor Fred Bagbagen relative to some issues concerning the Benguet Electric Cooperative that was published in the Sept. 11, 2022 issue of the Courier.

Thank you for your interest in the affairs of Beneco, even going out of your way to pen an asinine piece.

I’d like to share my thoughts on the points you raised.

On transparency of both groups via an audit:
Beneco at South Drive is audited by a Board of Accountancy, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and a Cooperative Development Authority-accredited independent auditor, including the National Electrification Administration and the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Beneco is also audited by the Commission on Audit for government subsidies. In fact, Beneco meets international standards audited by no less than the International Organization for Standardization.

It is the camp of lawyer Ana Maria Rafael that has nothing to show for the millions it unlawfully acquired from Beneco bank accounts. You should pound on them for an audit, councilor, even if they are your friends.

On the board of directors with unliquidated cash advances:
You might want to ask Rocky Aliping, Ricky Moresto, James Aclopen, and Luke Gomeyac. Ask them to shoulder the audit of the Rafael camp, as she is their recognized general manager.
On the issue of who is the rightful general manager:
No matter how hard you try to twist the laws, or divert us from the issue, the facts remain that the NEA cannot appoint the general manager of Beneco, and Ms. Rafael, who is not qualified, is not the general manager and never can be.

NEA only has supervisory powers and it only specifies the qualifications of general manager. The Board of Directors of Beneco appoints a general manager in accordance with the guidelines and qualifications as stated in Republic Act 10531, or the law that created the NEA.

The Senate and the House of Representatives also recognize the autonomy of Beneco in choosing its general manager, so do your peers in the council. Why can’t you?

Had the NEA stuck to its own law, then your much-desired checks and balance would have been met. But they didn’t. That’s why Beneco is in the pickle it is in now.

On increased electricity rates to pay for loans:
You know better than that, councilor. The rates on the bill cannot be raised at the whim of the electric cooperative. There is the ERC to watch over that. Unless you do not trust them, too?
It is normal in business to have loans. The public is rest assured that Beneco is able to meet its accountabilities responsibly and as best it can. They are able to do that and still provide Baguio and Benguet the lowest electricity rate in the country.

Bring on that audit to Dontogan – at the office of Ms. Rafael. Because that is where it is needed.

We also want the P58.6 million Sitio Energization Project funds returned so that Beneco can light up more sitios.

By the way, councilor, what is your beef with Beneco? Where is all this anger coming from? This isn’t the first time this has happened. You were also aggressive during the persona non grata hearings last year and in other Beneco-related sessions. Who hurt you? Is it true that it has something to do with a bungled real estate deal from years ago?

I hope that isn’t so. You are a lawyer and a duly-elected public servant. Your constituents, all of them Beneco member-consumer-owners, deserve so much more from you.

Quo vadis, councilor Bagbagen? I hope it is towards the truth. Be better. — MIA MAGDALENA C. FOKNO, Beneco member-consumer