DAVAO CITY – There’s one final court battle to settle the thorny issue of who controls the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Daneco).

This is what the Daneco faction, Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), would like to tell rival faction, National Electrification Administration (NEA), after the Court of Appeals (CA) ruled recently in favor of the latter as the legitimate administrator of the electric cooperative.

The CA ruled in favor of NEA’s petition to be the official administrator of the ailing electric cooperative. The ruling overturned the ruling of the lower lower court that recognized the result of a referendum recognizing the authority of the CDA board in running the affairs of Daneco. The Regional Trial Court in Tagum City also restrained the NEA from enforcing its April 2012 suspension order against the CDA-led board at Daneco.

In May 2012, the CDA-led board held a referendum to decide on the cooperative’s registration in which an overwhelming majority voted for CDA over NEA.

The CA said that it has nullified this referendum.

While the NEA group said there is no more legal impediment for NEA to take full control of Daneco, CDA OIC-General Manager Jerold Osorio said the NEA cannot take action on this decision.

“The NEA can’t act as complainant and judge at the same time,” he told Davao Today.

Osorio said both camps should rather wait for the decision of the Supreme Court where they have filed their appeal questioning the CA ruling.

“The final arbiter of the problem between CDA and NEA is the Supreme Court, because Daneco CDA is filing an appeal or Motion for Certiorare questioning the CA decision,” Osorio said.

Rift in 2012

The rift between the two groups started when members and officers of the Daneco, a cooperative by operation, held a referendum to register Daneco as a stock cooperative under CDA, a move meant as a protest against allegations of mismanagement of Daneco under NEA.

But NEA asserted its hold of Daneco by citing a new law that placed all electric cooperatives under NEA regardless of their affiliation.

As both groups raised their legitimacy issue to the court, a meeting with Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla in Davao on August 2013 called for another referendum in January 2014, but this one did not push through.

Daneco is one of the country’s oldest electric cooperatives founded in 1971, where it currently serves some 50,000 consumers in sixteen towns, and two cities (Tagum and Panabo) in two provinces (Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte).

Over the years, Daneco has been swarmed with complaints of mismanagement and failure to solve the frequent power blackouts across the province.

Saving DANECO’s debts

Meanwhile, NEA legal counsel Jorge Rapista urged the CDA to abide by the CA decision, saying it is now important to centralize collections to pay Daneco’s outstanding loans to power suppliers.

“There is no legal impediment. Let us follow the law. We have to make a move just to save the cooperative,” Rapista said.

NEA said they have to pay their overdue P 519 million loan to power supplier Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation which has warned Daneco would face disconnection.

Daneco -NEA entered into a three-year agreement with PSALM for its restructuring of its obligation amounting to P274,993,033 from June 2010 to  March 21, 2013.

PSALM said however, that Daneco-NEA has failed to settle its monthly power bills since July 2012.

Aside from PSALM, Daneco has incurred debts from other power suppliers like Engineering Equipment Inc. (EEI) Power Corp. (P134 million), Therma Marine, Inc. (P69.6 million), and National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (P23 million).

Abenales said they want CDA to submit to a mandatory audit on their collections and payments to power suppliers. “There’s so much money not audited nor submitted to NEA, so much not been remitted to the power suppliers,” he said.

The CDA presented a summary of payments released by PSALM that showed Daneco -CDA paid the power supplier P180,541,782 million from August 2012 to April 2014. (davaotoday.com)

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