May 28, 2024

A group of member-consumers from various electric cooperatives (ECs) are planning to file a complaint against Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc. (Philreca) party-list Rep. Presley de Jesus before the Ethics Committee of the House of Representatives.

In a press conference July 11, members-consumers of ECs of Isabela 1 and 2 (Iselco 1 and 2), Camarines Sur Electric Cooperative, and Benguet Electric Cooperative led by National Electrification Administration-general manager appointee Ana Maria Paz Rafael announced plans of filing this month their complaint against de Jesus.

Rafael said more member-consumers from other ECs nationwide are planning on lodging the same complaint against de Jesus for his alleged solicitation of funds and other donations from ECs for the Philreca’s campaign in the last elections.

For Iselco 1, members-consumers plan to include de Jesus’ alleged refusal to step down as board of director despite the NEA guidelines that prohibit directors of ECs to hold two positions in a concurrent capacity. 

In the case of the Beneco led by board of directors-GM appointee Melchor Licoben, Rafael said the utility has allowed use of its resources and facilities for the campaigns of Philreca and former Vice President Leni Robredo and former Senator Kiko Pangilinan.

On top of the active involvement of employees in the campaign who attended political sorties, Rafael said the Beneco headquarters at South Drive has been converted into the local campaign headquarters of Philreca. Official vehicles of the company also displayed banners of the Philreca and of the Leni-Kiko tandem.

Citing the Omnibus Election Code, Rafael said utility companies granted franchises by the government should not in any form or manner, be involved directly or indirectly in partisan activities such as political campaigns. 

Apart from the plan to file a complaint, a group, which identifies itself as a “pro-electric cooperative consumers” wrote President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. seeking assistance about the alleged defiance of orders of regulating agencies, illegal exercise of management powers and disbursement of funds at the expense of members-consumers of Iselco 1, Iselco 2, and Beneco.

In separate interviews, Licoben and Beneco Institutional Services Department Manager Delmar Cariño said Beneco does not prohibit employees from supporting candidates whom they believe in. They said attendance in campaign sorties were the personal choice of the employees and were done while they were not on duty.

Licoben also assured no funds from Beneco were used when they supported candidates.

Both said Beneco will answer every allegation if and when the House Ethics Committee will need clarification about de Jesus’ supposed breach of ethical standards as a member of the House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, the Electric Cooperatives Members-Consumers-Owners United Inc. (EC MCO) said it supports de Jesus who they said has truly represented ECs.

In a press statement, the group said the July 11 press conference became an avenue to wash the dirty linen of Iselco but no concrete evidence was provided to back their allegations against de Jesus.

The EC MCO said the best avenue to address issues against de Jesus should have been ventilated in the cooperative’s general assembly, not in a press conference.

The group also disowned Rafael saying she does not represent Beneco and MCOs.

EC MCO called on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to hold Rafael and spokesperson Maita Cascolan-Andres accountable for using the law to confuse the public and MCOs, and sow discord among their ranks. – Rimaliza A. Opiña