House of Representatives

Lawmaker scores NEA’s ‘harassment’ of Benguet power coop

Sherwin de Vera
Lawmaker scores NEA’s ‘harassment’ of Benguet power coop

POWER GAME. Ana Maria Rafael, the National Electrification Administration-appointed general manager to the Benguet Electric Cooperative answers questions of the Benguet provincial board in November 2021, weeks before the provincial legislative body declared her persona non grata.

Northern Dispatch

(1st UPDATE) Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) Party-List Representative Presley De Jesus and National Electrification Administration Deputy Administrator for Field Operations Omar Mayo trade accusations of 'overreach'

VIGAN CITY – A lawmaker representing a party-list for the power sector slammed  the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for its “blatant harassment and unfair treatment” of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) in a privilege speech.

Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) Party-List Representative Presley De Jesus also accused the NEA on January 31 of disregarding calls from the House of Representatives to maintain the status quo in the cooperative.

De Jesus pointed out that lawmakers adopted House Resolution No. 213 on Sept. 23 last year, warning the NEA of a possible contempt complaint if it ignores Congress’ call to  retain longtime Beneco employee and officer-in-charge Melchor Licoben.

The lawmaker slammed NEA for “overreach” in appointing a project supervisor to oversee Beneco.

“Malinaw na malinaw din na isinawalang-bahala ito ng NEA (Clearly, NEA disregarded this (the resolution)…. As if the House Resolution is a mere scrap of paper that they can freely ignore,” De Jesus said.

The Philreca representative also mentioned the suspension of seven BENECO directors in September, the early morning takeover of the main office in October, and the change of signatories for the cooperative’s bank accounts.

The Beneco leadership tiff has been dragging since August 2021 after NEA appointed former palace communications official Ana Maria Rafael as general manager. 

NEA Deputy Administrator for Field Operations and concurrent Beneco project supervisor Omar Mayo pushed back at De Jesus, saying the agency is just implementing the law and exercising its legal mandate.

“[Under the law], the power of NEA is only reviewable by the Court of Appeals. Why are they then subjecting [the issue] under Congressional review in the guise of checks and balance,” he told Rappler in a phone interview on February 2.

Mayo charged De Jesus and other lawmakers for “legislative overreach” since “different courts already took cognizance of the issues” raised by the Philreca representative.

“We have only one system of appeals and procedures under the law, I do not know why are they [House of Representatives] putting it under the broad coverage of inquiry in aid of legislation when cases are pending with the Court of Appeals, RTC Baguio, and the Prosecutor’s Office, that is sub judice,” Mayo said.

“We should not be even talking about the merits of the case. The matters in the privilege speech [of Rep. De Jesus] go into the heart of the petitions,” he added.

The NEA lawyer said all concerned parties should let the judiciary settle the matter and refrain from creating “extraneous factors” that might influence the case. –

Sherwin De Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

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