Policemen deputized by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) enforced the 90-day preventive suspension of 7 erring Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) officials on Monday morning.
This after the NEA ordered the deputization of the PNP to effect the full implementation of the 3-month suspension of Beneco Board of Directors lawyer Esteban Somngi, Mike Maspil, Jeffred Acop, Peter Busaing, Robert Valentin, Jonathan Obar and Josephine Tuling and assistant Beneco manager Melchor Licoben, who apparently had continued to defy the electric cooperative regulatory and quasi-judicial body which earlier appointed and installed lawyer Marie Paz Rafael as the cooperative’s general manager last week of August.
The NEA Board of Administrators (BOA) in Referendum number 6 on September 22, 2021 ruled to place the 7 Beneco officials on preventive suspension, while an investigation is undertaken to find truth on the complaint lodged by Atty. Rafael for “indirect contempt, willful violation of NEA Rules, and conduct prejudicial to the interest of the cooperative and member-consumers” after defying NEA.
NEA served the suspension of the 7 Beneco officials on September 28, 2021. The same officials acknowledged the PSO and moved for a reconsideration two days later, but never really vacated their posts. “(It was) a blatant abuse of authority and disrespect of the rule of law,” Rafael’s lawyers Rocky Balisong, Patrick Astudillo, Willibroth Managtag, Joel Pasiwen and Jingboy Atonen chorused. They deliberately ignored their accountability to the NEA, hence, the request for the assistance of the PNP,” they pointed out.
Members of the Beneco Labor Union (BELU) however denounced the apparent take-over of the NEA aided with policemen maintaining that the cooperative is owned by the member-consumers and not the NEA. They also denounced how defiant Beneco employees and the 7 officials were barred by the police from going to their offices at the Beneco main headquarters at Southdrive Road here Monday morning.
But Rafael, who was also earlier barred from occupying her office at the Beneco main headquarters, via her battery of lawyers maintained, “the rule of law is a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standars.”
Defiant Beneco officials and their employee-supporters have been holding afternoon protest actions infront of the Beneco headquarters since Rafael’s installation by the NEA.
Rafael though not banning employees’ right to redress said, rules must be instituted to maintain law and order. She said she has designated areas at the Beneco headquarters’ compound as venue from holding protest activities.