The Baguio City Council, voting 8-3 with one abstention, passed a resolution on Monday, October 25, declaring lawyer Omar Mayo as persona non grata over the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) leadership controversy.
The National Electrification Administration (NEA) appointed Mayo as project supervisor for Beneco to resolve the power struggle between the NEA appointed general manager, lawyer Ana Maria Rafael, and the Beneco Board designated manager engineer Melchor Licoben.
But Mayo’s pre-dawn takeover of the Beneco HQ, with help from fully armed personnel of the Philippine National Police on October 18 drew the ire and condemnation of the Baguio and Benguet residents and officials.
After three days, however, employees and member-consumer-owners peacefully took back the Beneco compound following the Benguet Electric Cooperative headquarters takeover by National Electrification Administration officials.
The NEA takeover roused anger among consumers, the city government of Baguio and neighboring LGUs and religious leaders.
Asked about the incident, Mayo and Baguio City Police Chief Glenn Lonogan maintained that there was nothing irregular in their operation. Both likewise asserted that they were implementing a legitimate order from the NEA board of administrators, deputizing the police to enforce the suspension order of the seven Beneco board members and Licoben.
The police chief explained that they executed the order at dawn to avoid a possible violent confrontation with Licoben’s supporters. He said they needed to enter the compound to establish control of the perimeter and prevent the suspended Beneco officials from entering the premises, as contained in the NEA order. He also denied claims that they forced their way inside the office.
However, councilors Betty Lourdes Tabanda and Arthur Allad-iw disagreed. They cited Rule 28 of the PNP Operations Manual, saying that police can only enforce final decisions or orders of the court and quasi-judicial and administrative bodies. The legislator pointed out a pending case before the Court of Appeals, making all orders on the matter was not yet final.
Tabanda, in particular, rebuked Lonogan for denying their forcible entry, saying the videos shot during the incident showed otherwise.
The Provincial Board of Benguet also passed a resolution today condemning the October 18 raid-like takeover. They also postponed the deliberation on the declaration of Rafael as persona non grata in the province to let her and Mayo explain their side. The board also decided to consult the 13 municipalities before deciding on the matter. – Rappler.com
Sherwin de Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.