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Baguio court refuses Benguet power union’s “veiled” effort to favor defiant official

Baguio City regional trial court branch 60 Judge Rufus Malecdan has refused to grant a temporary restraining order petitioned by employees, supervisors and department managers of the Benguet Electric Cooperative, a supposed “master trick” to maintain officer-in-charge Engr. Melchor Licoben and stall the full assumption of NEA-appointed general manager Atty. Maria Paz Rafael.

Explaining the proper court to ask for a TRO is not the RTC but the Court of Appeals, which according to RA 10531 mandates as the proper venue for such reliefs being sought against orders by the National Electrification Administration (NEA),

Judge Malecdan on September 10, 2021 declined saying, the power to issue a TRO on an issuance of the NEA such as the August 27, 2021 appointment of Atty. Rafael as Beneco’s general manager rests with the CA.

Malecdan also pointed out that he sees no case of insubordination being filed by either Rafael, who had assumed office, or Licoben, who has continued to defy NEA orders, against employees who petitioned the RTC to intervene on their fears either the two entangled in the general manager row would sue them.

Employees, who two weeks ago barricaded the compound against Rafael’s assumption, claimed before the RTC they are now confused whom to follow as both claim the position.

While Judge Malecdan said he sympathizes with the petitioners’ fears, he could not issue such by prohibition of law, unfounded fears of cases and believing if he would issue a TRO, it is tantamount to also preventing Atty. Rafael from discharging her functions as NEA-sanctioned Beneco general manager and in effect instituting a “status ante order”, a demand by Licoben contained in his answer to Judge Malecdan.

Judge Malecdan even explained that a status quo ante order is even more potent than a TRO because it does not lapse while the former last for a specific period of time.

Malecdan also cited that the same Beneco employees including Licoben have already petitioned the CA for injunction against the NEA order installing Atty. Rafael.

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