June 2, 2023

The National Electrification Administration Board of Administrators (BOA) has endorsed Atty. Marie Rafael to the Benguet Electric Cooperative Board of Directors (BOD) to be the distribution utility’s general manager, but Beneco employees and management said the lone endorsement is illegal.

The NEA BOA, in Resolution 2021-47 dated April 29, has endorsed Rafael as the lone candidate for Beneco GM for having garnered the highest points in the final interview for the position that also had Beneco OIC General Manager Melchor Licoben as applicant.

Currently an assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, Rafael, in a statement, said she has gone through the hiring process and the BOA’s endorsement of her is based on NEA’s policy on hiring the general manager of an electric cooperative.

In a statement, Beneco employees said the BOA’s endorsement of a lone applicant des-pite the fact that both are qualified candidates is questionable and has set aside the jurisdiction of the Beneco BOD to choose a general manager.

“The BOA used the scores in the final interview of the applicants as the basis in endorsing only one applicant. This reeks of injustice and ignorance of the rules. The daily function of the general manager of an electric coop is not a daily dose of interviews but the technical mien that is needed to shepherd the electric coop’s operations,” the statement reads.

Based on the BOA resolution, Licoben reportedly garnered an average score of 82.75 percent while Rafael has an average score of 94 percent in the final interview.

Rafael said her years of supervisory experience in government service, among other credentials, qualifies her for the position she applied for with Beneco, as she dispelled what she called as malicious imputations on her ability to lead an electric cooperative.

“I have good intentions to work for Beneco and I do not have any business interests that are in conflict with the business transactions of Beneco,” Rafael’s statement reads.

But Beneco employees said they had no intentions of maligning Rafael’s reputation, adding what they were questioning is the BOA’s decision and the process it adopted in screening the applicants.

The employees said the BOA does not have the power to endorse only one applicant, emphasizing that under NEA Memorandum 2017-035, as long as the applicants are qualified, the BOA must endorse them both to the BOD, which has the power to choose the general manager.

“We never had malice in expressing our belief on how the NEA BOA processed the recruitment for the applicants for the GM of Beneco. Our stand is that the NEA BOA violated its own guidelines of recruitment based on the factual antecedents of the situation,” they added.

The Philippine Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, the national organization of electric coops, said the decision of the NEA BOA in endorsing only one of the two qualified candidates is a grave abuse of discretion.

“The function of the NEA BOA is limited to screening and ensuring that the candidates are qualified to become a general manager of the electric cooperative. Selecting the GM is a power and responsibility of the EC’s BODs,” Philreca stated.

Rafael said she respects the authority of the NEA BOA.

“Since the BOA resolution has been released, I will subject myself to the wisdom of the BOD of Beneco,” she said.

The Beneco BOD is tasked to accept or reject the lone endorsement.

Atty. Esteban Somngi, Beneco BOD president, said they will discuss the BOA resolution during the board’s meeting on May 20.

In an interview on May 6, Somngi said the Beneco BOD has yet to receive the original copy of the BOA resolution.

“We need time to discuss this tho-roughly as this is a matter that needs to be carefully examined (by the board),” he said.

The Beneco BOD has appointed Licoben as Beneco OIC general manager in 2020.

In earlier pronouncements, Somngi said the authority to appoint the most qualified individual to lead a distribution utility is lodged with the BOD. – Jane B. Cadalig