April 22, 2024

An official of the Department of Energy and concurrent alternate chair of the Board of Administrators of the National Electrification Administration has committed to submit to the House Committee on Energy the personal files of the two applicants for general manager of the Benguet Electric Cooperative.
In the recently concluded hearing of the House Committee on Energy, DOE Usec. Emmanuel Juaneza informed members of the committee that NEA will furnish them the application papers of Beneco OIC General Manager Melchor Licoben and Presidential Communications Operations Office Asec. Ana Marie Rafael.
He asked, however, that these documents should only be used as reference by the committee, and should not be released to the public as these are confidential.
The NEA previously turned down the request of the committee to be furnished documents related to the applications of Licoben and Rafael such as the results of their examination administered by the University of the Philippines College of Psychology, and background investigation, citing the Data Privacy Act.
Juaneza’s commitment, however, did not stop the NEA from delivering to the Beneco headquarters in Baguio last Aug. 27, the BOA resolution that gave Rafael the greenlight to sit as general manager.
This is despite the recommendation of the NEA Legal Services Office to defer implementation of the BOA resolution that endorsed Rafael, out of courtesy to the House Committee on Energy.
Committee Chair Pampanga 2nd Dist. Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo has planned to issue a subpoena for the NEA to submit the documents, if not for Juaneza’s commitment.
Licoben last week, wrote the NEA allowing the release of his documents to the public. He said he wants to be transparent about the fact that he possesses all the qualifications for general manager.
The House committee has just concluded its inquiry into allegations that NEA overreached its function on the screening, selection, and appointment of general managers of electric cooperatives. The inquiry also sought to revisit, define, and review the mandate, powers and functions of the NEA.
In the June 2 and Aug. 18 committee hearings, discussed were how Beneco is being managed and the NEA’s disregard of its own rules when it endorsed Rafael as the new GM of Beneco despite her falling short in not just one but several criteria to qualify as new GM.
During the Aug. 18 committee hearing, Juaneza said the NEA screening committee has prequalified Licoben and Rafael hence both were allowed to move on to the succeeding stages of their application until the final interview where the latter earned a higher score, and which became the basis for the BOA to endorse her as new GM.
He also cited the opinion of the Office of Government Corporate Counsel, which stated their endorsement is within the bounds of the mandate of the NEA, and that Licoben has lost his integrity to lead the Beneco when he remained as the OIC general manager despite a NEA directive that the concurrent OIC should resign from his post.
This was not enough to convince the power bloc in the Lower House as its members led by Philreca Partylist Rep. Presley de Jesus said based on the information extracted from the NEA and Juaneza, the process in the endorsement of general managers of electric cooperatives have been set aside.
Beneco Institutional Services Department Manager Delmar Cariño cited four acts of overreach that the NEA committed: accepting and processing of an application for GM despite the fact that there is no vacancy; accepting and processing an application that was never submitted to the Beneco; accepting and processing the application of an applicant who failed to meet the two the most important qualifications: a college degree related to the management of an electric cooperative, and a five-year management experience of a successful electric-utility related business enterprise; and BOA endorsement based only on the results of the final interview.
“Indeed, there is an obvious manifestation of overreach that has eroded the functionality and privacy of electric cooperatives,” Cariño said.
In the succession plan of the Beneco, the AGM or whoever is deputized as officer in charge automatically becomes the GM.
Other electric cooperatives in the country do not have such a set-up, according to NEA Institutional Development Department Manager Nollie Alamillo.
Quezon City 4th Dist. Rep. Jesus Manuel Suntay said Beneco’s setup has to be reviewed for if all electric cooperatives were to create an AGM position, which automatically qualifies the current deputy to be the GM, the authority of the NEA in the hiring process is diminished.
“We might as well amend Republic Act 10531 (the law that created the NEA). If there is always a position for the AGM to be promoted, there will never be a vacancy, unless hindi ipo-promote (ng board of directors ‘yung AGM. Pero mawawala na rin ang authority ng NEA sa hiring,” Suntay said.
Juaneza is open to the proposal of allowing all electric cooperatives to have a plantilla position of AGM but there should be a provision that an AGM will only be considered an automatic applicant for GM, not automatic promotion as GM.
“There should be a competitive selection of applicants,” Juaneza said.
Meanwhile, Committee on Energy Vice Chair Rep. Koko Nograles said it is not for the committee to decide if NEA has committed a violation as alleged.
He said the committee will only determine if the incident could happen to other electric cooperatives or if the issue is an isolated case and if the NEA abused its discretion as the overseer of electric cooperatives. – Rimaliza A. Opiña