Social media war on Beneco tiff drags Magalong into the rift


BAGUIO CITY — Mayor Benjamin Magalong expressed dismay over a manipulated photo circulating on social media dragging him into the ongoing power struggle in the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco).

The edited image used dialogue bubbles to make it appear the mayor supports Atty. Ana Marie Rafael as Beneco general manager.

“That meme is a product of a malicious and distasteful mind and it speaks of the character of the people who allowed and condoned its circulation,” Magalong said.

The photo circulated after the mayor recognized the presence of Engr. Melchor Licoben, during the launching of the Baguio Smart City Command Center, calling him “the most competent Beneco general manager.”

The National Electrification Administration-Board of Administrators (NEA-BOA) appointed Rafael to take the helm of Beneco. Her designation came amid unresolved issues in the selection process, protest from rural power distributors and the cooperatives, and status quo requests from different officials.

On August 30, Rafael and her pool of volunteer lawyers asserted control, further raising the tension, with two persons assuming the general manager post.

Meanwhile, the Beneco Board of Directors chose Licoben to head the cooperative servicing Benguet and the city. They affirmed his designation during their August 31 meeting and rejected the NEA-BOA resolution endorsing Rafael. Beneco employees and most of the local governments in the service area supported his appointment.

Magalong said he visited both camps that day to ensure that Beneco services would not be affected by the current row.

“I did not go there to have my person be used for any ill purpose, especially misleading people,” he stressed.

“For that matter, I reiterate my full support to GM Mel Licoben because of his leadership, competency, technical skill, character and humility,” the mayor added.

The social media war on the issue had an ugly turn, with Rafael’s supporters resorting to red-tagging anyone who questions her appointment. Several posts even insinuated employees of being “rebels” and may resort to burning the cooperative’s headquarters.

Tongtongan ti Umili, a multisectoral alliance in Baguio, raised concern on efforts of some individuals identified with Rafael’s camp to “vilify and intimidate those who challenge their claim to BENECO by demonizing activism.”

“Their move is an obvious show of how Ms. Rafael’s camp is maximizing their connections to the Duterte propaganda machinery …. This is the manifestation of their desperation to stifle the growing dissent among the members and consumers of BENECO,” the group said in a statement.

Asked about the red tagging and the Magalong meme during her September 13 press conference, Rafael said that she has no control over the minds of her supporters.

“I ask doon sa mga sumusuporta po sa akin na huwag ng palalain ta agkakaliantayo met laeng and at the end of the day datayo met lang ti agtitinulong,” she appealed.

(I ask my supporters, do not make the situation worse, we are all one people and at the end of the day, we will be the ones helping each other.)

Rafael added that she has relatives and friends with the Left, respects their beliefs, and does not subscribe to red-tagging. She also distanced herself from the Magalong meme, saying that anybody can grab and edit an image from the internet and use it to destroy someone’s credibility. #

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