A city councilor criticized the National Electrification Administration and Benguet Electric Cooperative management and board of directors (BoD) for failing to represent the real clamor of power consumers.
Councilor Fred Bagbagen in a recent privilege speech accused the NEA of sleeping on its job when it allegedly chose not to act on an audit report that showed Beneco is incurring losses, and that it practically allowed the BoD to continue with its “spending sprees” by failing to curtail this practice of the cooperative’s policy-making body.
General Manager Gerardo Verzosa and the board led by its president Joey Marrero however belied the allegations and accused the councilor of early politicking.
They said Bagbagen should go to court and file charges so they could answer all accusations.
“His allegations are very serious. If he is certain about his accusations, he should file a case so we can answer. Every time we are invited to the city council, we are cut short. Maagang pamumulitika ito,” Verzosa said.
Bagbagen said the BoD, based on their whim, spend consumers’ money by going beyond the prescribed twice a week meetings. For every meeting, each member receives P5,000 in per diems.
He also said the BoD, without legal basis voted to increase their P350,000 district contingency fund (DCF or their pork barrel) to P1 million each, for their corporate social responsibility.
In response, the BoD said they have explained to the NEA that they had to hold special meetings so they could act swiftly on matters referred to them. Directors Rocky Aliping and Gaspar Leung said the board wanted to increase their DCF due to numerous solicitations.
Director Ferdy Bayasen said there are rules in the disbursement of DCF and these are audited. Its implementation meantime, is on hold pending the NEA’s approval.
The BoD is also said to have favored AV Garcia Power to conduct a feasibility study for its Man-asok hydro project in Buguias, Benguet when this should have been bid out. The study cost P1.4M.
Aliping showed there were seven companies that bid for the study. He said the project was awarded to AV Garcia because it was the lowest bidder.
Bagbagen also criticized the BoD for allowing the disbursement of P4M as “success fee” to its former legal counsel, Emiliano Gayo. “It is unethical and without justification.”
Director Alfredo Santos said Gayo has a contract with Beneco that spelled out how much he should be paid. He said after the case was won in the Supreme Court, the BoD negotiated with their former counsel and he agreed to reduce this to around P3.2M and was paid on a staggered basis.
Bagbagen further criticized the BoD for using their positions as launching pad for their political ambitions. He said Beneco should abide by a city ordinance that bars politicians from putting their names on projects and donations.
Director Gerry Marave said the ordinance binds elected officials of the local government only.
In his speech, the councilor also said Beneco wasted consumer’s money when it bought a property in South Drive.
Verzosa and the BoD said the property was bought for future use. Regarding the questioned under pricing of taxes for the purchase of the property which led to the filing of a tax evasion case, Marrero said they filed a complaint with the Bureau of Internal Revenue against the original owners of the property and questioned why the taxes were lower than computed. Marave added they paid with the BIR “under protest” to show that they are in good faith.