Benguet power coop chief row drags on

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BAGUIO CITY – The row over the next general manager of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) has dragged on, as its Board of Directors continue defying the mandate handed to lawyer Ana Maria Paz Rafael by the National Electrification Administration’s Board of Administrators (NEA-BOA) over the former’s choice- former assistant manager, now officer-in-charge Engr. Melchor Licoben.

On Tuesday morning, the Beneco board rejected the NEA-BOA’s appointment served Monday at the cooperative’s protest- barricaded compound at the “millionaires row” along Southdrive road where tension was at a high.

Atty. Rafael however began to hold office at corner of the multi-purpose hall since Monday.

Though lawyers of Rafael said they expected the rejection of the BOD, they maintained it was “ultra vires” as “the only act left for the BOD to do is to submit the Performance Management Contract (PMC) with Rafael.”

Majority (6 out of 4) of Beneco BOD’s defiance to an order, deemed a regular government action through the NEA invoking its supervisory function over electric cooperatives in the country, had placed the power distributor in the limelight as member-consumers have been “burning their keyboards” over the issue.

Thus, ushering “a great divide” on who should lead the power distribution utility, a top-performing power cooperative, though not spared from issue scrutiny in the past and possibly in the future as member-consumers are wondering what are at stake at the ongoing power struggle.

“My appointment is deemed effective immediately,” lawyer Rafael firmly said, as she earlier had issued administrative and similar memoranda concerning the operations of the cooperative as she with a battery of lawyers entered the compound on Monday.

But during a heated debate among Rafael’s lawyers and pro-Licoben elements including the BOD President Esteban Somngi on Monday, a status quo was wished where Licoben stays at his office as BOD GM-appointed.

A practically “two-GM” scenario though is sending member-consumers in the quandary, though both Rafael and Licoben promised operations of the cooperative will not get affected.

Administratively however, a few sectors are beginning to worry it will dent the service of the power distribution utility, solely servicing Baguio City and Benguet province.

Resources too might be dragged into the mess, said a consumer-member, eventually leading him to think that even the financial position of the cooperative would get entangled with the power struggle that would even lead to a long-standing legal battle between the contending forces.

Lawyer Rafael however promised the issue will soon rest as government’s will finally resolves the issues to a successful end against ill motives hounding the battle of power within the cooperative in the name of public service and the peoples’ interest”

Artemio A. Dumlao