By Mario Casayuran
With 49 days left before the May 13, 2019 mid-term elections, electric cooperatives (ECs) should remain apolitical at all times, and avoid participating in any partisan political activity, pro-administration Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said Monday.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy committee, made the call after the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, Inc. (NASECORE) accused some ECs of making financial and other contributions to party-list groups and personalities vying for seats in this year’s elections.
If the allegations are indeed true, the ECs involved might be violating a provision of the Omnibus Election Code, which forbids public utilities and those granted franchises by the government, such as electric cooperatives, from making any contributions for political purposes, Gatchalian said.
“It is alarming to learn that there are some electric cooperatives that have been contributing to the campaign kitties of party-list groups. By funding political groups, they have prejudiced consumers because the money could have been used for the improvement of their facilities or other electrification initiatives,” he added.
Gatchalian also pointed out that there is also the question of where the money came from.
“Because ECs are non-profit, they have an obligation to show that they are not using consumers’ contributions for political activities,” he added.
Gatchalian said that as chairman of the Senate energy committee, he was inclined to look into the allegations and hold erring electric cooperatives accountable.
In a letter dated March 5, 2019, NASECORE urged the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to conduct a regulatory audit on electric cooperatives as the group accused some distribution utilities of bankrolling the election campaign of the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. (PHILRECA) Party-list.
The group claimed that Davao del Sur Electric Cooperative (DASURECO) made a P3-million contribution to PHILRECA party-list, while Isabela II Electric Cooperative (ISELCO) chipped in another P2 million to the party-list group’s campaign.
NASECORE argued that the two electric cooperatives violated not only the Energy Regulatory Commission-approved EC Annual Revenue Requirement (ARR), but also Section 95 (b) of the Omnibus Election Code.
Section 95 (b) of the Omnibus Election Code states that “natural or juridical persons operating a public utility aren’t allowed to make contributions “for the purpose of partisan political activity.” For this reason, NASECORE wants the ERC to immediately issue a directive to all electric cooperatives, ordering them not to use its funds, directly or indirectly, for the 2019 elections.