(UPDATED) Electric cooperatives (ECs) and other rural electrification stakeholders have called for the resignation of Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi and National Electrification Administration (NEA) chief Emmanuel Juaneza’s resignation for “unabating threats and hurdles faced by the energy sector.”
National Center of Electric Cooperative Consumers (NCECCO) Secretary-General Edgardo Masongsong urged Cusi to resign over the “irregular and anomalous” sale of Chevron’s 45% share in the Malampaya gas-to-power project to Udenna Corporation.
Masongsong, Juaneza’s predecessor, was fired by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte last year despite NEA receiving the highest ratings from the Commission on Audit under his watch.
The groups blasted NEA for issuing guidelines that did not only violate the current laws in the energy industry but also benefit “oligarchs and select few.”
Among the memoranda cited are Memo to ECs no. 2021-039, which automatically considers an EC employee or official as resigned effective upon their assumption of office as a partylist representative; Memo to ECs no. 2021-040, which expanded the restraint in political rights of employees by automatically considering nominees of a partylist on leave of absence from the start of the campaign period; and Memo to ECs no. 2021-051, which prohibits officers and employees to join or participate in any partisan political activity.
“Based on the decision of the RTC, these issuances run counter to election laws, and more importantly, the freedom of expression and association clause of the 1987 Constitution. The RTC also ruled that the NEA and [the] NEA [Board of Administrators] can only exercise supervisory powers—not control—over [ECs],” Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PHILRECA) President and Partylist Rep. Presley De Jesus said in a statement.
De Jesus also criticized NEA for issuing Memo 2021-055 and 2021-056, which aim to revise the “Policy on the Selection, Hiring, Termination of Service/Suspension for General Managers (GM) of Electric Cooperatives” and “Guidelines on the Conduct of Examination and Interview for Applicants” respectively.
The congressman’s statement stems from NEA’s appointment of Ana Maria Paz Rafael Banaag in August last year as the Benguet Electric Cooperative’s (BENECO) new general manager following the retirement of its late GM Gerardo Versoza. This resulted in a standoff between Banaag and NEA officials on one side and BENECO’s officials and employees on the other.
“Mr. Juaneza clearly does not have what it takes to be an Administrator of an institution which used to be a partner of the electric cooperatives, an institution which used to protect the ECs and the MCOs welfare,” De Jesus said.
NEA, meanwhile, defended its decision to change its rules on the hiring of ECs’ GMs, saying these will equip them to “handle the rising challenges in the Rural Electrification and the demands of Member-Consumer-Owners.”
“The policy guidelines encapsulates clear and uniform set of standards on the selection, hiring and termination of service/suspension of an EC general manager,” NEA said in its statement.
The agency added that issuance of memoranda part of its function to supervise ECs under Presidential Decree 269, as amended by Republic Act 10531 or the NEA Reform Act of 2013.
Power Philippines has sought the DOE’s reaction, but has yet to receive a response.
Aside from the ECs, Senate energy committee chairman Sherwin Gatchalian also urged Cusi to step down also over the Malampaya controversy. Cusi, however, refused to do so along with Duterte’s backing.
NCECCO is supporting Gatchalian’s re-election bid, while PHILRECA — the umbrella organization of 121 ECs nationwide — is backing the presidential bid of Vice Pres. Leni Robredo.