December 5, 2022

The Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) took the side of the National Electrification Administration Board of Administrators (NEA-BOA) on the latter’s questioned endorsement of a Malacañang official as general manager of the Benguet Electric Cooperative.
Citing the NEA charter and NEA Memorandum 2017-035, Government Corporate Counsel Elpidio Vega said the endorsement of Presidential Communications Operations Office Asec. Marie Rafael is above board.
Having supervisory powers over electric cooperatives, Vega said NEA is empowered to prescribe, pass upon, and review the qualifications of individuals appointed or elected to electric cooperatives and disqualify those who are not fit for the position.
Vega added Licoben lacked integrity when he continued performing the functions of a general manager instead of relinquishing his post, as required in Memorandum 2017-035.
By submitting to the processes of the NEA, Vega said Licoben should be ready to accept the outcome of his application whether this is favorable to him or not.
“There should be no occasion for him to complain when he was found wanting when compared to the standards set for the position vis-a-vis his competitor,” the OGCC opinion reads.
But the Beneco Labor Employees Union and Supervisor’s Association maintained the NEA-BOA’s endorsement of only one candidate is illegal.
In a comment posted on its official social media account, the two groups disputed the OGCC’s opinion, stating it does not bind the courts, the House Committee on Energy, and Beneco as an institution.
Despite the OGCC’s stance that Rafael’s endorsement is above board, Beneco said the NEA-BOA did not provide any justification why it endorsed only one applicant in the final interview when both were qualified to undergo that stage in their application.
Beneco said the NEA only screens the applicants but based on the same memorandum that the OGCC cited, the electric cooperative’s board of directors will choose whom among the applicants will be accepted.
“The NEA promulgated its rules on selection and no amount of police power would dissuade the fact that such rules must be followed to the hilt, particularly when any attempt to tweak the same would prejudice the rights of another,” reads the joint statement of the labor unions.
Licoben also has a basis to complain, Beneco added. “Nothing can take away the fact that both applicants passed the final interview by the BOA and he deserves to be endorsed too to the board of directors.”
Beneco added Licoben did not have to relinquish his post for the BOD already named him the new GM since January 2020 and there was no order from the NEA for him to vacate his post. At the time, there were no other applicants for GM.
Meanwhile, the House Committee on Energy approved on Aug. 17 the motion that the setup at the Beneco should be on status quo pending the outcome of the committee hearing on the hiring process of the NEA of general managers of ECs. – Rimaliza A. Opiña