RTC stops BENECO members’ assembly
The special general membership assembly of the Benguet Electric Cooperative set Feb. 12 was stopped by a Regional Trial Court in Baguio through a 72-hour restraining order commen-cing Feb. 11.
Beneco directors Luke Gomeyac, Rocky Aliping, Enrique Moresto, and James Aclopen filed the petition for the issuance of a restraining order, citing that board of directors-appointed general manager Melchor Licoben, BOD Chairperson Esteban Somngi, directors Jeffred Acop, Mike Maspil, Peter Busaing, Jonathan Obar, Josephine Tuling, Robert Valentin, department managers Brenda Carling and Delmar Cariño, and all other persons acting in their behalf are not authorized to conduct the assembly.
The petitioners said the special assembly does not have the imprimatur of the National Electrification Administration and the Cooperative Development Authority, the government bodies overseeing the operations of electric utilities and cooperatives.
In a statement, the petitioners’ counsels, Jingboy Atonen and Maita Cascolan Andres, said Licoben, the BOD, and the department heads have been defying orders from the NEA and are misrepresenting themselves as legitimate officers of the Beneco, which caused confusion among members-consumers-owners.
The plaintiffs also cited in their complaint that Beneco will suffer grave and irreparable injury as the assembly will be used as venue to justify the current collection of capital shares and for the assembly to ratify the loan transactions of Beneco.
Cariño, head of the Institutional Services Department, said they respect the court’s prerogative of issuing a restraining order even without a hearing.
As of press time, Beneco has yet to be informed of a schedule should the petitioners ask the court to extend the restraining for another 20 days. The TRO will expire on Feb. 14.
Cariño said if an extension is sought, a hearing will be called and they will submit their reply to the plaintiffs’ allegations.
“We beg the indulgence of all those who have pre-registered and those who have expressed their intent to join the assembly. The TRO may have stopped our assembly but we will continue our struggle,” Somngi said in an advisory.
There 7,000 MCOs who registered to attend the Feb. 12 assembly.
Despite the setback, Mayor Benjamin Magalong continues to rally behind the Licoben-led Beneco.
Magalong has sought the help of civic organizations to protect interest and the welfare of the consumers amid what he called the “dirty tactics” being employed by the group of NEA-appointed general manager Ana Maria Paz Rafael.
“Right now, it has become a war of attrition. Sinasakal ang present management hanggang hindi na maging maayos ang kanilang serbisyo at masira sila sa tao. What is saddening is they are doing this at the expense of the consumers,” the mayor said in a media briefing.
“Kaya dapat mag-mobilize pa rin ang mga consumer groups na hindi dapat payagan itong ganitong gawain. We have to act now and mobilize and deplore this kind of tactic. Dirty tactics ito,” the mayor said.
He said the move of Rafael’s group that had banks refrain from releasing funds to the present management will definitely affect the cooperative’s cash flow resulting in the power utility’s failure to pay their suppliers and service providers and eventually cause the disruption of power supply to the detriment of the consumers.
Magalong said pressure groups should also support the call for solutions to avert a potential crisis that will be caused by the continuing impasse.
“Let’s rally behind this dahil unang una, napakaganda ng serbisyo ng Beneco. Gold standard ‘yan tapos bigla-bigla lang nilang guguluhin. Let’s make sure na maiayos ang gulo at mamanage ang risk para tuluy-tuloy ang serbisyo at hindi maapektuhan ang mga tao.”
He said he had already suggested risk management measures and is awaiting response hoping that the NEA will take the lead.
He added strategic and proactive measures must be in order considering the potential impact of the current developments arising from the leadership dispute to consumers not only in Baguio but also in Benguet.
In an earlier statement, the mayor suggested that parties and depository banks involved enter into a financial risk arrangement through escrow agreements where banks can directly remit payments to power suppliers and third-party providers. – Rimaliza A. Opiña and Aileen P. Refuerzo