april 23-29, 2012
Top officials of Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (DANECO) are wary at press time over the possibility of facing a National Electrification Administration’s move of aborting the scheduled holding of the referendum on May 5 to 6 for the conversion of DANECO as a cooperative with stock ownership of members pursuant to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA).
DANECO, with its over 140,000 member-consumers, is yet the biggest electric cooperative in Mindanao that is trying bolt from the clutches of NEA’s regulatory powers by “defecting” to Cooperative Development Authority (CDA).
DANECO OIC general manager Felix Hibionada, in an interview, said that he and the rest of officials who are respondents to a case lodged by a group of consumers late last year have expressed apprehension that NEA might just render a quick decision of that case to preempt and abort the next week’s scheduled referendum of DANECO members to choose whether to remain under the control of NEA or “to be real cooperative” registered with the CDA.
Hibionada decried over recent NEA move of denying their motion for formal hearing of the case lodged against DANECO’s nine board and management officials.
The complaint included allegations on anomalous biddings and funds’ misuse.
He said that NEA had only conducted one mediation and one clarificatory conference between the two parties and “then it (NEA) would immediately and unjustly render judgment against us because we are going to CDA?”
He said the respondents had moved that there would be formal hearing of the case as complainants had only lodged one position paper with many attached photocopied and inadmissible documents.
He said that NEA had not fully exhausted probing them about the raised allegations to have due process and their rights would surely be violated without that formal hearing before NEA would decide.
In the event of contrary judgment, the OIC general manager said they would still resort for relief remedy in court.
The general manager also clarified that it was NEA which had issued Memorandum No. 2012-001 last Dec. 27, 2011 directing electric cooperatives nationwide to launch and fast track the conduct of public consultations and information and education campaigns (IEC) for member-consumers to make an informed decision on the issue of either remaining on status quo under NEA as non-stock cooperative, or converting into cooperative with ownership under CDA or as stock corporation under the Corporation Code as stated in Section 57 of EPIRA.
“Since 1994 we’ve been trying to be converted into real coop, but we did not prosper. Now is the time to make it for the good of DANECO,” Hibionada said.
He added that they are pushing for conversion for better DANECO, and not because there is a NEA case lodged against them.
DANECO board president Dean Briz, in separate interview, said that under the present scheme of things under NEA, “DANECO’s hands seem to be tied up and clipped as all have to be first submitted to NEA for approval.”
“If DANECO is converted as a real cooperative, NEA will be intervening only for technical and financial assistance,” he added.
Briz said that under NEA they could not give their members as co-owners the dividends of share capital and patronage refund while DANECO could not enjoy the benefits of a CDA-registered cooperative enjoying exemptions of local and national taxes and VAT payments pursuant to Cooperative Code of 2008.
He said that the supposed shares of member-consumers have now accumulated to P87 million that remain “untouched” in the bank.
Late last year seven member-consumers lodged a complaint to NEA over at least nine allegedly anomalous, malicious, fraudulent, or questionable transactions that they stated to have been committed by nine of the 12 members of the board of directors and two top management officers- the former DANECO OIC general manager Nelson Balangan and current OIC GM Hibionada.
The complainant-member consumers who lodged the case docketed as NEA ADM Case No. 01-10-11 were identified as Gregorio Ybanez, Khernie Bahan, Epifanio Alfeche, Paulito Villaceran, Jr., George Monares, Juan Esperanza and Arnold Dinopol.
The respondents from the board of directors were Briz, board treasurer Ananias Darjan Jr, Roberto Alam, Roman Calicdan, Brendo Ceniza, Miguel Fermil, Roberto Binasbas, Eugenio Ramonida, and Engr. Dan Gervacio.
Among the questioned major transactions related to the bidding in the changing of new security agency of DANECO, the acquisition of the P44-million 20-MVA transformer in Asuncion town substation whose brand-new quality was subsequently disputed owing to oil leaks and spillage shortly after the installation, bidding of a P5.5-million computerized system by Gellangarin Computers, allegedly hasty and diverted payment of P750,000 for the viability study on waste to energy power plant by NAANOVO Energy, Inc., abolition of the Barangay Power Associations (BAPAs), and allegedly unauthorized claims of DANECO board of directors’ members for fuel, oil and lubricant allocations.
The respondents alleged that several of the transactions had violated NEA standing policies and procedures such as the requirement of seeking prior NEA review, approval or confirmation before cash releases, contract or project executions.
Meanwhile, the management’s sudden move to have the referendum has spawned apprehensions from the employees’ ranks. The sought referendum was already postponed twice last February and April.
DANECO employee Emmanuel Pineda said that the employees favor NEA’s retention as it would act to help whatever bad that would happen to DANECO through NEA’s great money for loaning and subsidy to electric cooperatives.
“Besides NEA can sanction abusive and erring officials of electric cooperatives,” he added.
In separate interview, the United Daneco Employees Welfare Association president Ruweno Ormido said that they favor the retention of NEA as DANECO’s regulatory body, but “we will respect whatever the outcome of the referendum provided that the member-consumers have been well-informed.”
Skeptics however doubt that the management could muster the required 20 percent or over 28,000 “yes” votes as they foresee a lack of member voters on the two-day referendum.
As this developed, the NEA decision is eagerly being awaited by the complainants this week while the respondents would seem to be unmoving over rumors of them being suddenly dismissed by NEA leaving only possible three members of the board of directors unscathed and with no GM in command.
The NEA though had assigned a Project Supervisor (PS) at DANECO Tagum office to oversee the DANECO operations over three months ago following the lodging of the case.
“That rumor has been running for a quite a time. We’re waiting for NEA’s decision. Until now we haven’t received yet any,” OIC GM HIbionada said Monday.
An affected board of director said on the condition of anonymity that the majority in the board of directors would not take their possible dismissal sitting down, threatening they would stage people power of sort with the back up of supportive elected officials to physically block NEA’s takeover of DANECO. (cha monforte)