June 1, 2023

I served for two terms in Congress and have a little bit of knowledge where the report of the Committee Energy chaired by Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo on the debacle on the general manager position of Benguet Electric Cooperative will go – the dustbin.
Of course, the report does not have the effect of law and while it expresses the sentiments of the majority if not all of its members, it is not yet the sentiment of the Lower House.
First, the report must be filed with the Bills and Index Division who refers it to the Committee of Rules to determine if it is ready to be “reported out” or referred back.
Reporting it out means scheduling the same for the plenary (all members) to debate upon. Arroyo must stand and defend and any member, assuming there is a quorum (rare nowadays) can interpellate, question, assent, or disagree with the same until the matter is closed on debate. The vote shall then be cast but it does not stop there because the Speaker can veto and trash it.
Assuming it is certified by the President as important to the national interest, which it is not, the timetable is one to one and a half or even two years and yes that would only be the time when it would have the “persuasive” effect one desires.
Meantime, the questioned appointment by the National Electrification Administration Board of Administrators (NEA-BOA) remains valid until annulled. From the point of view of law and not the persons whom I consider both friends, her appointment continues to be good.
The NEA has defined and explicit powers to exercise supervisory control over the management and operations of all electric cooperatives, as provided for in Section 5 (e) of Republic Act 10531.
The appointment was made pursuant to this legislative power of NEA through the BOA said the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel legal opinion. The OGCC is the lawyer of all government-owned or quasi-government corporations and since NEA could not have its own legal opinion on a matter pending before it, it correctly sought out the OGCC.
The Beneco Board of Directors (BOD) cannot impugn the power of NEA cited above because from the beginning, it has been submitting itself to the body – loans, contracts etc.
Past Beneco general managers Gerardo Versoza and Peter Cosalan were appointed by NEA.
When Verzosa died, the BOD has endorsed Engr. Melchor “Mel” Licoben’s application to NEA, thus they are estopped from denying its power of appointment.
The sad part is nobody told Licoben that per law, he is deemed automatically resigned upon filing. There is therefore nothing for the board to recognize that Licoben continues to be their general manager because he has resigned from his post retroactively.
From the start, if Beneco directors believed they had the power, they should have appointed him right there and then but did not, and instead they go up. A vacancy occurred which was open to any Tom, Dick, and Harry and not exclusive to the board’s candidate. After their anointed one was not selected, they now say NEA has no authority to do that, but then again, they submitted the required Performance Management Contract to NEA.
In their eyes, Atty. Ana Maria “Marie” Rafael is not qualified, as she is only a lawyer, legal scholar abroad, a former mayor and Ombudsman staff, assistant secretary and obtained a higher grade while Licoben has an experience being an engineer.
A congressman says NEA violated guidelines in the selection process but your honor, between a guideline and the law, the law prevails, ask John Ray.
Then Arroyo’s committee says NEA abused its power and asked it to reconsider but again it is a polite request not an order to a department under the executive branch. There is separation of powers between the executive and legislative, according to Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque and this one time, he got it right.
All the opinions though will not invalidate the appointment. At the very least, both parties should know what proper remedy they must do which certainly is not a catfight in social media.
Heard someone went to Regional Trial Court for relief, but sorry my dears, wrong venue and no jurisdiction. We are a nation of laws and not of men. The rule of law must prevail.
Orders made by NEA pursuant to its supervisory powers, among others, cannot be restrained or enjoined except upon lawful orders of the Court of Appeals, and such injunction may not last for 60 days. (Section 9, Rule II, implementing rules and regulation of Republic Act 10531 or the An Act Strengthening the NEA.)
A petition for certiorari premised on grave or excess of jurisdiction is the starting point, to determine whether in making Rafael a general manager, NEA abused its discretion (Rule 65, Rules of Court).
At this point, Rafael is it. A government action always carries the presumption of regularity until or unless declared null and void, it has the force and effect of law. And as long as it is not lawfully enjoined, it can call on the exercise of police power for its observance and enforcement.
A presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties is an aid to the effective and unhampered administration of government functions. Without such benefit, every official action could be negated with minimal effort from litigants, irrespective of merit or sufficiency of evidence to support such challenge.
To this end, our body of jurisprudence has been consistent in requiring nothing short of clear, convincing evidence to the contrary to overthrow such presumption. (GR No. 196347 Yap vs. Lagtapon).
May “na-kuryente” – in journalese a bum steer, a false story, planted or otherwise was fed. Sigh.

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