Ex-Malacañang exec declared persona non grata in Benguet over ‘armed takeover’ of power utility office
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet––The provincial board on Monday (Nov. 8) declared lawyer Ana Maria Paz Rafael, former assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, as persona non grata (unwelcome) in Benguet after the recent armed takeover of the power utility serving the province and Baguio City.
Voting 13 in favor and one abstention, the provincial board issued a resolution for the declaration.
Vice Gov. Johnny Waguis said Rafael lied when she told the board during the Nov. 3 session that she arrived at the headquarters of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco) in South Drive around 7 a.m. during the takeover on Oct. 18
Waguis said video footage with time stamps showed that Rafael was at the compound as early as 5 a.m.
The National Electrification Administration (NEA) had designated Rafael as manager of Beneco to replace Melchor Licoben.
Licoben, who assumed the leadership of Beneco by succession last year, was slapped a 90-day preventive suspension by the NEA, along with Beneco’s board president and six directors, who voted to reject Rafael’s appointment due to her alleged ineligibility.
Lawyer Omar Mayo, legal officer of NEA, designated by the regulator as Beneco “caretaker,” had also been declared persona non grata in Benguet last week.
Mayo reportedly led the forcible takeover of the Beneco office backed by NEA-deputized policemen.
During the provincial board session last week, Rafael was asked why she should not be declared persona non grata, to which she replied: “up to you to decide.”
The board also asked her if she could give way and respect the public clamor, Rafael said: “I just want to work … unless and until my appointment is annulled, I need to work as the general manager.”
In an interview last week, Board Member Juan Nazaro said they did not initially include Rafael in the persona non grata declaration saying they still had to verify her statement that she was not present during the armed takeover.