Gatchalian backs Senate inquiry into forceful takeover of BENECO

Published October 28, 2021, 10:56 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has joined calls for a congressional inquiry into the alleged forceful take over of the Bengue Electric Cooperative (BENECO) offices to shed light on the circumstances leading to changes in its management.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, said he is preparing to file a Senate resolution on the matter, pointing out that such kind of incident creates uncertainty in the minds of consumers.

“Our concern is the stability in that area. Baguio is a highly urbanized city and we don’t want them to experience brownouts because of this commotion,” Gatchalian said in a recent Senate hearing on the proposed P3.896-billion budget of the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

At the same time, Gatchalian pressed the NEA to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity in Baguio City and all 13 towns in Bengue province amid the leadership crisis in BENECO.

During the hearing, NEA Administrator Emmanuel Juaneza assured the Senate energy panel that “there’s no more trouble in the area insofar as BENECO is concerned.”

At the same time, Juaneza stood ground on the appointment of Ana Maria Rafael as general manager.

But Gatchalian said an internal analysis of BENECO’s current mess showed that it was NEA that did not follow its own memorandum insofar as succession mechanism and selection process is concerned when it appointed Rafael as the new general manager.

The senator, citing NEA Memorandum 2017-035, said the revised policy on the selection, hiring, termination of service/suspension for general managers of electric cooperatives (EC), clearly provides for the rule allowing BENECO’s board to select the general manager of their choice and for NEA to step in only if the board rejects all pre-qualified applicants.

“We don’t want NEA, the supervisor of all ECs, to be imposing people over a well-run, functioning coop and that is not the intention of the law,” Gatchalian said.

He said the intention of the law is for the ECs to govern themselves and NEA will just step in during problematic times, if it’s badly managed or if it’s an ailing cooperative.

“My plea to NEA is to review your own rules. Make sure that you follow your own rule and make sure that BENECO is running smoothly because we owe it to the people of Baguio,” he stressed.

“We have to make sure that electricity is continuously flowing to the homes of our constituents in Baguio,” the lawmaker further appealed.