November 26, 2022

The Lower House has urged the National Electrification Administration Board of Administrators to maintain status quo on retaining the current officer-in-charge of the Benguet Electric Cooperative, among others, in line with the ongoing struggle on the company’s management.
The Lower House during its third regular session last week adopted House Resolution 2239, urging the NEA-BOA to strictly adhere to and comply with the provisions of NEA Memorandum 2017-035 on the selection of general managers of electric cooperatives (ECs) particularly on the case of Beneco and take appropriate actions to fulfill NEA’s mandate as the government agency with supervisory powers and functions over ECs.
It also recommended that NEA should revoke NEA-BOA Resolution 2021-47, which endorsed the applicant with the highest score in the final interview for the position since there was no vacancy in the Beneco general manager position.
It further reminded NEA to avoid repeated ultra vires acts specifically in the selection of Beneco general manager and to maintain status quo in retaining its OIC, under pain of contempt, until all the issues in the selection process have been resolved.
A case tackling the issue is pending before the Court of Appeals.
The House resolution was reached after the Committee on Energy chaired by Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo conducted an inquiry in aid of legislation on the alleged overreach of the NEA on the screening, selection, and appointment of EC general managers, among other concerns.
Among other recommendations, the committee recommended that NEA should be admonished because it committed grave abuse of discretion in doing its mandate.
The matter arose when on April 30, 2020, Beneco General Manager Gerardo Verzosa officially retired.
Pursuant to the succession plan and organizational structure of ECs that NEA approved, Beneco opted to promote the assistant general manager, Engr. Melchor Licoben, to the vacated position by making a recommendation and appointment pursuant to the second option allowed under NEA Memorandum 2017-35.
Licoben on May 1, 2020 was appointed as Beneco OIC, which was confirmed by NEA on June 24, 2020. Beneco did not declare the position vacant in view and consideration of Licoben’s appointment.
NEA, however, considered the position vacant and considered two applicants, Licoben and then Presidential Communications Operations Office Asec. Atty. Ana Maria Paz Rafael, as competitors for the position.
Both applicants were screened, passed the screening, and qualified to undergo the final interview before the NEA-BOA.
NEA Memo 2017-35 provides the list of applicants who passed the final interview along with necessary information and results of background investigation shall be transmitted to the EC board for perusal and selection.
However, NEA endorsed Rafael who garnered the higher score in the final interview without the results of the qualifying exam that would have measured and showed the applicants’ emotional and intelligence quotients, computer literacy, knowledge of the industry and management perspectives, and other related documents as required under NEA Memo 2017-35.
The Lower House pointed out this effectively limited the choice of Beneco BOD notwithstanding both applicants were qualified to be appointed to the position.
“The action of the NEA-BOA clearly constituted an ultra vires act as it acted beyond the metes and bounds of its power and authority as defined by its own charter, relevant laws, and NEA issuances,” the House resolution said.
It added, “The act of NEA amounts to usurpation of the power of the Beneco Board of Directors to appoint their own officials, particularly the general manager, as provided for in the law and its constitution and by-laws, and as such gave unwarranted benefit, advantage, or preference manifested partiality and evident bad faith in favor of one applicant.”
The Lower House said the power granted by law and issuances to NEA is limited to the screening of applicants for general manager and to validate if they possess all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications since the employer of said applicants is the EC and not NEA.
“The law is clear that the powers of NEA over ECs are supervisory and should not in any way be exercised to control their affairs,” the resolution stated, among other things. – Hanna C. Lacsamana