December 4, 2022

National Electrification Administration project supervisor for Benguet Electric Cooperative, Atty. Omar Mayo, has been declared unwelcome in Baguio City by the city council.

The city council on Oct. 25 declared Mayo as persona non grata in the city for his failure to address the leadership standoff at Beneco.

Councilor Michael Lawana, who moved for Mayo’s declaration as persona non grata in Baguio, said his presence did not improve the situation at Beneco.

“We have not seen any improvement if we look back at what transpired when he arrived,” Lawana said, adding his intention in moving for Mayo’s declaration as persona non grata is for the NEA to review the situation at Beneco.

“Maybe the NEA can change (Mayo) as the project supervisor or send another person who can harmonize the situation,” Lawana said.

Councilors Betty Lourdes Tabanda, Lilia Fariñas, Elaine Sembrano, Mylen Yaranon, Arthur Allad-iw, Isabelo Cosalan, and Levy Lloyd Orcales voted in favor of Lawana’s motion.

Councilors Benny Bomogao, Fred Bagbagen, and Joel Alangsab voted against, saying it was harsh for the council to declare as unwelcome a government official who was merely doing his job.

“It’s (harsh) for us to declare him a persona non grata when he was authorized by a government agency to perform his job,” Bomogao said.

Councilor Vladimir Cayabas abstained from voting, saying while he does not like Mayo as the project supervisor of Beneco, he is not in favor of the move to declare him as unwelcome in Baguio.

The city council invited Mayo, among others, during its Oct. 25 session to answer the members’ queries on the Oct. 18 entry by the NEA of the Beneco main office along South Drive with members of the Philippine National Police who were deputized by the NEA to ensure peace and order.

Mayo said their entry to the Beneco offices in the wee hours was meant to prevent a violent confrontation between the employees who are supportive of Engr. Melchor Licoben, who was appointed general manager by the Beneco Board of Directors.

Tabanda said she is not comfortable with the decision for NEA and the police to implement an order at a time “while everybody is sleeping.”

The NEA deputized the PNP to implement the suspension order against the seven board of directors and Licoben.

The preventive suspension stemmed from the administrative charges filed by Atty. Marie Rafael against the seven Beneco directors and Licoben for not recognizing her appointment as Beneco general manager by the NEA-Board of Administrators.

The seven Beneco board of directors led by its president, Atty. Esteban Somngi do not recognize the NEA-BOA’s appointment of Rafael, saying she is not qualified and her process of appointment is not in accordance with NEA’s guidelines in the selection of a general manager of electric cooperatives.

At one point during the almost five-hour deliberation, Lawana asked Mayo about his sentiments on the clamor of Beneco member-consumers for the NEA to get its hands off Beneco.

“Are you happy to be staying here when every day, people are shouting that you get out of Beneco? How do you feel? The Beneco member-consumers will not stop doing this until NEA gets out,” Lawana said.

Mayo said he is in Beneco to do what he was ordered to do. “This is a matter of doing one’s sworn duty,” he said.

Mayo is one of the few people the city council has declared persona non grata, among them is Judge Nelson Largo of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch III of Cabanatuan who summoned a member of the Public Order and Safety Division who issued him  a citation ticket for violating Baguio’s parking ordinance.

The city council had also declared celebrity Candy Pangilinan persona non grata for making a joke about the Igorots, but the declaration was lifted after the comedienne issued an apology. – Jane B. Cadalig