DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 November) — A legal battle looms between one group within the now divided Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Daneco) and personalities who figured in the alleged forcible takeover by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) of the power distributor’s office in Tipaz, Barangay East, Tagum City last week.
For over six months now, Daneco has operated under two managements and two sets of board of directors labeled as “Daneco-NEA” and “Daneco-Cooperative Development Agency (CDA)”.
Engineer Abiner Labja, Daneco-CDA chairman of the board of directors, said last Sunday their legal counsel will take legal actions against the people involved in the incident.
He said a certain sheriff, Renato Suarez, bringing a writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) from the Court of Appeals, broke into their office in Tipaz with the help of some policemen and harassed the employees, forcing them to get out.
Rodel Arquiza, convener of Save Daneco Movement (Sadamo), said over a hundred policemen and alleged goons were present during the takeover.
He alleged some policemen hit the employees and volunteers, including women, while forcing them to get out of the office.
Labja said the WPI was about the pending graft case against old members of Daneco’s board of directors, who already resigned.
He added the WPI does not state about the NEA’s takeover of Daneco’s office, but Suarez told him it was implied in the court order.
Last October, Suarez and some policemen first attempted to take over the Daneco office in Tipaz. They allegedly harassed the employees and member-consumers who were paying for bills, but failed because the employees resisted.
Sadamo led a protest rally against the privatization of Daneco and called for the firm’s conversion into a genuine cooperative last Wednesday in Tagum City with about 2,000 participants from different areas of Davao del Norte.
CDA a majority choice
Like other electric cooperatives in the country, Daneco had been under the NEA since it was founded in the 1970s.
But with the passage of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act in 2001, electric cooperatives have the option to become either a cooperative under the CDA or a stock corporation registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The Daneco board of directors initiated a series of referendums with member-consumers in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley last May following the memorandum order of former energy secretary Jose Rene Almendras.
Labja cited that 49,056 member-consumers voted to be under the CDA, 1,773 to remain under the NEA, and 399 voted to register with the SEC.
He, however, said the Daneco member-consumers who voted to remain with the NEA has not honored the result of the referendum.
The Daneco office in Tipaz is now occupied by the NEA, but the cooperative continues to operate in a new office at the Provincial Cooperative Union Building, Barangay Magdum, Tagum City, Arquiza said.
“They only took the office but not our operation. We will continue to fight for the cooperative to be under the CDA because we have benefits,” he added.
Arquiza cited that as mandated by the CDA, member-consumers of Daneco will earn dividends, patronage refund and automatic exemption from the 12-percent expanded value-added tax in their bills.
Labja said the row between “Daneco-CDA” and “Daneco-NEA” might result in some member-consumers refusing to pay their bills because of the chaos.
He said Daneco has at least 180,000 consumers with some 130,000 classified as residential and 50,000 as institutional, industrial and government. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)