March 1, 2024

La Trinidad, Benguet has filed a case against Benguet Electric Cooperative for alleged breach of contract over the maintenance of its streetlights.
In the case filed in court dated Jan. 2, the municipality represented by Mayor Romeo Salda filed a breach of contract and specific performance and damages against Beneco represented by General Manager Gerardo Versoza.
The parties entered into a contract for the maintenance of streetlights on Sept. 13, 2008 where both agreed that Beneco would maintain and install additional non-metered streetlights in the town.
The contract provided that it shall cover the 1,032 streetlights each with 43 kilowatt hours per month, as well as those to be installed in the future.
In accordance with the contract, the defendant installed new additional streetlights in different locations within the 16 barangays of the town. As of Jan. 7, there are at least 2,426 non-metered streetlights installed by Beneco, according to the municipal engineer’s office.
The municipality agreed to be billed on a flat rate basis for non-metered streetlight wherein it is obligated to pay 12 burning hours based on the wattage of the street lights actually used.
Beneco will also provide the needed labor and materials for the maintenance and repair of broken or dilapidated streetlights.
However, the municipality said it was caught off guard by the decision of Beneco to stop the maintenance of the streetlights beginning April 27, 2019.
It said it only learned about Beneco’s halting of maintenance through a letter signed by Beneco’s Assistant General Manager Melchor Licoben and Versoza on March 26, 2019.  
The case stated that La Trinidad met with Beneco several times to appeal for the proper turnover of the streetlight maintenance and for the latter to continue its contractual obligation to the municipality.
“The act of defendant in stopping the replacement, repair and maintenance of the streetlights through mere letters amounts to an unlawful unilateral rescission of breach of the contract dated Sept. 13, 2008 as the contract does not provide a period within which the same shall expire. This unlawful unilateral rescission caught plaintiff off-guard so to speak, as it was absolutely not prepared for this,” the case stated.
The municipality said Beneco only gave short notice in its plan to discontinue streetlight maintenance thus, it was not able to prepare its budget earlier to cover the cost and repair of the streetlights by April 2019.
La Trinidad said it does not have the proper equipment such as boom trucks, ladders, and other tools needed for the maintenance. It said it does not have trained personnel to handle repairs of the streetlights. 
“As the plaintiff has been complying with the terms of the contract, the unilateral revocation of the same by defendant is a breach of the contract, which entitles the plaintiff to seek redress from the honorable court,” it said.
La Trinidad appealed to the court to order Beneco to continue the maintenance, repair and replacement of all the streetlights, as it claimed it is willing to be billed with 12 burning hours as originally stated in the contract.
The municipality said there are 547 non-functional streetlights within the town as of Jan. 7 which is estimated to be about P964,295. Also, it asked that Beneco reimburse the equivalent rate for the busted streetlights starting April 27, 2019.
Further, the municipality said Beneco billed them of the 12 burning hours even after April 27 and not the 10 burning hours as offered by Beneco to La Trinidad and other local government units.
The municipality said residents are inconvenienced from the non maintenance of streetlights due to the action of Beneco.
The municipality asked the court to immediately issue a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction, asking Beneco to repair at its own expense the 547 busted streetlights within the various barangays of the town.
It also asked the court to issue a continuing writ of preliminary mandatory injunction, asking Beneco to repair all streetlights that will be destroyed after Jan. 7 within the town.
The town further asked the court to make the injunction permanent and to order Beneco to comply with its contractual obligation written in the Sept. 13, 2008 contract.
Beneco Institutional Services Department Manager and Legal Counsel Delmar Cariño said they will answer the charges once they received a copy of the complaint. – Ofelia C. Empian