December 5, 2023

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

The Benguet Electric Cooperative is hoping to hold an election for board of directors within the year.

Beneco interim Board of Directors president Steve Cating said the election will come after the general manager has been selected, as the National Electrification Administration is expected to wrap up the selection process for the top post within the month.

Two applicants are being screened to become general manager, which was rendered vacant as NEA’s way of addressing the leadership crisis that beset the electric cooperative since October 2021.

Acting General Manager Delmar Cariño said the NEA Board of Administrators is set to conduct the final interview of the applicants next week then endorse them to the interim board that will then select the general manager.

Beneco officials did not identify the applicants for general manager while the selection process is ongoing.

The election of regular members of the Beneco BOD has been one of the clamors of member-consumers after NEA took over the supervision of the electric cooperative in January. Four towns in Benguet have also earlier passed resolutions calling for the conduct of the election.

Beneco is composed of 11 districts represented by a board elected by member-consumers. Baguio is allotted six representatives while Benguet is allotted five.

To recall, the NEA removed the Beneco BOD after an audit found them administratively liable for irregularities involving the management of the distribution utility’s funds, specifically their benefits and allowances and for disregarding the regulatory agency’s authority over electric coops.

When NEA, under Administrator Antonio Mariano Almeda, removed the 11 BOD in January, it also revoked the appointment of Atty. Ana Maria Rafael who was then appointed by NEA under Emmanuel Juaneza and suspended for 45 days Engr. Melchor Licoben, who was then the BOD-appointed general manager.

When NEA stepped in with Almeda as Beneco project supervisor, Licoben reverted to being the Beneco assistant general manager.

Those removed were Esteban A. Somngi, Rocky M. Aliping, Enrique S. Moresto, Jonathan C. Obar, Robert L. Valentin, Josephine B. Tuling, Luke B. Gomeyac, Peter B. Busaing, Jeffred S. Acop, Mike W. Maspil, and James B. Aclopen.

The NEA disqualified the removed directors from running for the same post and from being employed in any electric cooperative.

Almeda said under his administration, NEA will stick to Memorandum 2017-35, which provides, among other things, that the BOD of an electric coop shall appoint, terminate the services, or suspend the general manager of an electric cooperative.

When it took over Beneco’s operations, the NEA said its actions were not meant to preempt the case that sought to resolve who is the legitimate Beneco general manager, which is still pending before the Court of Appeals.