party-list groups

Philreca denies use of Benguet electric coop resources during 2022 elections

Sherwin de Vera
Philreca denies use of Benguet electric coop resources during 2022 elections

DENIAL. This photo shows Philreca Representative Presley de Jesus.

Philreca's Facebook page

'We categorically deny all the allegations made and condemn any baseless attempts to besmirch the well-built reputation of the party list,' says Philreca Representative Presley de Jesus

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) party list denied accusations that it used funds and other resources from electric cooperatives during the 2022 elections. 

“We categorically deny all the allegations made and condemn any baseless attempts to besmirch the well-built reputation of the party list,” said Philreca Representative Presley de Jesus in a Friday, July 15 statement. 

“These are just rehashed baseless accusations, which have already been addressed, ruled on, and some cases eventually dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman,” De Jesus said 

According to him, Philreca has “never abused its influence and has been consistent in its obligation to follow the rule of law.” 

“The party list continues to invite any investigation into its actions and commits itself to participate in the legal processes to clear any allegations, as we have done so in the past,” he added. 

The lawmaker was reacting to the July 11 press conference of former Presidential Communications Operations Office official Ana Maria Rafael in Baguio City, with Isabela board member Edward Isidro, lawyer Karen Abuan, Mayor Jaime Atayde of Luna, Isabela, and former 1-CARE representative Mike Rivera. 

The National Electrification Administration (NEA) appointed Rafael as Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) general manager in 2021. Her group claimed Philreca violated Batas Pambansa (BP) 881 or the Omnibus Election Code when it “sought out the use of Beneco equipment and facilities, and possibly its funds” during its campaigns in Benguet. 

“We will be filing an ethics complaint against Philreca party list for using the facilities of Beneco for the campaign, which should not had happened because it is against the law,” she said. 

Rafael cited Malacañang’s decision dismissing former NEA chief Edgardo Masongsong for allegedly allowing the use of electric cooperative funds for the Philreca campaign in 2019. She presented photos of Philreca activities inside Beneco’s Dumol Hall and service vehicles carrying party-list posters during the 2022 campaign. 

Section 95 of BP 881 prohibits “natural and juridical persons operating a public utility” and those “who have been granted franchises” by the government to contribute for electoral campaign. 

The group also alleged Philreca is using its influence to undermine NEA’s control over electric cooperatives, citing the leadership issues in Beneco and Isabela I Electric Cooperative (Iselco 1). 

Beneco is facing a leadership tiff between Rafael and engineer Melchor Licoben, who was chosen by the Board of Directors and backed by the workers and members to lead the cooperative. Meanwhile, the politicians from Isabela accused De Jesus of perpetuating himself as Iselco 1 board president while also serving as Philreca representative. 

In a text message on Thursday, July 14, Licoben assured members and consumers that no Beneco funds were used for Philreca’s campaign. 

“For the record, we have not used any cooperative fund for Philreca during the campaign period. The employees expressed their support in their personal and individual capacities,” he said. 

“It is very easy to allege, [especially with] the current issue in Beneco. Let them show what the [violations we committed] are,” Licoben added. 

Vendetta? 

Electric Cooperative Members-Consumers-Owners (EC-MCO) United, a group formed by Beneco MCOs following the foiled takeover of the cooperative by NEA and Rafael last October, said the move against Philreca is “more concerned about their grudges against Cong. De Jesus rather than the welfare of MCOs in the country.” 

Philreca was one of the party list that filed House Resolution No. 1776 in May 2021, urging the committee on energy to probe NEA for its alleged overreach in the screening, selection, and appointments of general managers of electric cooperatives. The committee released its findings in September of the same year, saying that NEA “acted beyond the metes and bounds of its power and authority.” 

The report also zeroed in on the Beneco controversy, noting the NEA’s lapses and questionable actions in the general manager selection process. The House adopted the findings and recommendations, including the status quo in Beneco in favor of Licoben. 

Recently, De Jesus also challenged the issuances of NEA amending the selection process and hiring general managers for electric cooperatives. 

An Isabela court voided NEA Memorandum Nos. 2021-055 and 2021-056, noting the agency has no power to appoint general managers of electric cooperatives. 

“Thus, in issuing Memorandum Nos. 2021-055 and 2021-056, NEA-[Board of Administrators] has exercised not its supervisory and disciplinary powers but control over ECs, clearly, beyond its authority, hence, ultra vires,” the ruling said. 

Licoben called the decision “a positive development,” noting that they can use it to bolster their case against the other camp’s claim over the general manager’s seat. 

However, Rafael’s camp believes the court ruling only applies to Iselco I, asserting that only the CA could void orders from NEA, citing Section 4c of Republic Act No.10531. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.