La Trinidad mayor calls for peaceful end to ‘leadership crisis’ at power utility firm

October 19, 2021 - 6:59 PM
Local police officers at the power utility firm Beneco (Facebook/Beneco Employees Labor Union)

A provincial chief executive called for sobriety on the ongoing conflict at the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) on behalf of the households who needed the firm’s services as soon as possible.

La Trinidad Municipal Mayor Romeo Salda issued this statement on Tuesday, October 19 after some local authorities took over the power utility firm.

Police officers led by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) stormed into Beneco’s headquarters at 3 a.m. on Monday, October 18.

Based on reports, Beneco employees did not report to work at the main office to stage a protest against NEA and the regional police.

‘Peaceful resolution’

Salda later called for a peaceful resolution on the matter. He cited the residents that would be affected by operation disruption.

“Hence, we call for sobriety; and this call for sobriety is a call for the continued services of BENECO under the stewardship of Engr. Melchor S. Licoben,” Salda said.

“As a Member-Consumer myself, along with the many households and businesses reliant on BENECO’s services, I pray for a peaceful resolution of the matter at the soonest time possible,” he added.

Salda cited possible consequences or scenarios should the siege of Beneco and the protest of its employees persist in the coming days.

“Just last night, a truck rammed into an electrical post at Tili, Shilan, Benguet. The effects were immediate: an already anxious law student taking her exam went into panic; refrigerated food was in danger of spoilage; and even LGU hotlines were besieged with reports – and then, complaints,” he said.

“Imagine if such situation becomes protracted. Imagine the usually-responsive action of BENECO turn into unanswered calls ringing in unmanned empty halls, then, you’ll see that we really have a major crisis on our hands,” Salda added.

The local official stressed that Benguet residents could no longer afford power loss in their daily activities and other important affairs.

“We could not afford even a moment of power loss, in light of the many emergencies and online classes and transactions, which now define our present state of affairs,” Salda said.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong and the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) also previously denounced NEA’s forced entry and takeover of Beneco’s main office.

Philreca also condemned the Philippine National Police personnel for giving aid to NEA.

“We condemn the Philippine National Police for allowing the agency to be used in an illegal act and protecting only the one-sided interest of Rafael, PS Mayo and NEA-BOA by blindly following the orders from its chain of command instead of protecting the interest of the member-consumer-owners and maintaining neutrality,” the regional cooperative said.

Timeline of BENECO takeover

Employees on duty during the time NEA and local police stormed into Beneco’s main office recorded the incident and shared the videos on their employees’ union page.

NEA later installed Ana Maria Rafael as general manager of the electr firm.

Beneco’s board of directors and Licoben were also ordered suspended, according to NEA’s new resolution.

This development came weeks after NEA affirmed the appointment of Rafael as Beneco’s general manager on July 29.

Beneco’s board, however, rejected Rafael’s designation.

In a special session on August 31, they affirmed Licoben as their chief.