Benguet power coop row takes another twist

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BAGUIO CITY (October 20, 2021) –  An angry mob, even backed-up by politicians,  stormed the central headquarters of the Benguet Electric Cooperative along the millionaire’s row at Southdrive here Wednesday morning yet twisting the leadership  row plaguing the cooperative for two months now.  

Employees partial to cooperative officials earlier suspended for three months by the National Electrification Admininistration (NEA) for defying the August 2021 appointment of lawyer Maria Paz Rafael as general manager joined by self-proclaimed member-consumer owners (MCOs) at around 9AM claimed to have taken back the cooperative from NEA and Rafael. 

Policemen deputized by NEA earlier enforced Monday morning the 90-day preventive suspension against Board of Directors lawyer Esteban Somngi, Mike Maspil, Jeffred Acop, Peter Busaing, Robert Valentin, Jonathan Obar and Josephine Tuling and assistant Beneco general manager Melchor Licoben, for defying the electric cooperative regulatory and quasi-judicial body’s appointment of Rafael.

The NEA Board of Administrators (BOA) in Referendum number 6 on September 22, 2021 ruled to place the 8 Beneco officials on preventive suspension, while an investigation is undertaken to find truth on the complaint lodged by Atty. Rafael for “indirect contempt, willful violation of NEA Rules, and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the cooperative and member-consumers” for defying NEA. 

NEA officially served the suspension on September 28, 2021 and erring Beneco officials acknowledged the PSO, moved for a reconsideration of the ruling two days later, but never vacated their posts. 

 “(It was) a blatant abuse of authority and disrespect of the rule of law,” Rafael’s lawyers Rocky Balisong, Patrick Astudillo, Willibroth Managtag, Joel Pasiwen and Jingboy Atonen chorused.   They deliberated ignored their accountability to the NEA, hence, the request for the assistance of the PNP,” they pointed out.

Fueled by social-media instigations,  the angry mob convened at the Malcolm Square at the center of Baguio City and marched towards South Drive purportedly to drive Rafael and NEA Project Supervisor lawyer Omar Mayo out from the building.

Amid anti-riot policemen, the mob pushed themselves into the premises, later on claiming victory of retaking Beneco.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong parried insinuations that his presence Wednesday is not about winning votes for 2022, “but being on the right side”.  He even personally called Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea over the phone reiterating there is nothing wrong with Beneco to merit a change of leadership.

Rafael and Mayo’s group, which silently slid off from the melee, could not be reached for comment as of press time, though have earlier vowed “to enforce  the rule of law,  and government’s mandate” amid a maddening crowd obviously machinated by greed for power and resources.

NEA had earlier flagged Beneco’s BOD for fund and resources abuses.

Artemio A.  Dumlao