Former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Thursday, Dec. 9, accused the National Electrification Administration (NEA) of “power-tripping” as he condemned its alleged continuous harassment of the Benguet Electric Cooperative’s (Beneco) officials and members.
Trillanes, who is running for reelection as a senator in the 2022 polls, said the cooperative’s MCOs or member-consumer-owners have spoken about the leadership issue and that their stand must be respected.
“What they are doing is plain and simple power-tripping and is affecting Beneco consumers. This has to stop,” he said in a statement sent to media.
The former senator noted the Beneco board, as well as the councils of Baguio City and Benguet “do not agree with the leader NEA wants to install”.
“This is a people’s cooperative and its wishes should be respected,” Trillanes, who chairs the Magdalo Party, added.
The leadership dispute at Beneco stemmed from NEA’s appointment of former Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Anna Marie Banaag-Rafael as the new general manager despite Beneco naming engineer Melchor Licoben, who had been serving as officer-in-charge, for the position.
NEA forcibly took over the Beneco headquarters in a raid-like operation during the wee hours of Oct. 18 to impose the suspension order against Licoben and seven other Beneco board directors.
The incident caused an uproar among officials and residents of Baguio and Benguet, but two days later the MCOs reclaimed the Beneco office.
However, even after the forced takeover ended, Trillanes received complaints from Baguio residents about the alleged continued harassment of Beneco officials.
In a statement, NEA defended its choice of Banaag-Rafael as the new general manager of Beneco, citing the legal basis of the selection process.
NEA said that its Board of Administrators passed Regular Board Resolution No. 2021-47 on April 29, 2021. The resolution endorsed Banaag-Rafael for the post because she received the highest score in the final interview.
“The NEA BOA found the action of Beneco without valid reason, thus it appointed Atty. Rafael as the new Beneco general manager based on the NEA memorandum regarding the process of selection and hiring of an EC general manager, through RB Resolution No. 2021-71,” the statement read.