Elections for all seven (7) seats in the Board of Directors of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) will be held this year, in a possible preview of the 2022 national and local elections.
General Manager Raul Zafe and Board President Dir. Rodolfo Vargas told the Tribune in the cooperative’s Marinawa office that the conduct of the district elections will be subject to the approval of the local Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and the local government unit concerned.
Of the seven districts, two – District I (Baras/Gigmoto) and District III (San Andres) – have not been represented in the board due to the retirement of its directors since 2020 while District V (Virac) has not had a director since then Dir. Alexander Ang Hung resigned in October 2018.
Both Dir. Teresita Soledad of Baras-Gigmoto and Dir. Julian Soneja of San Andres stepped down from their posts in March and September last year, respectively, after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Dir. Vargas of District II (Bato) and Dir. Robert Aquino of District VII (Viga, Panganiban and Bagamanoc) were supposed to stand for reelection in 2019 but the activity was deferred by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) on March 21, 2020 after the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was declared due to the pandemic.
On the other hand, Dir. Marilyn Robles of District IV (San Miguel) and Dir. Arsenia Bernacer of District VI (Pandan-Caramoran) were both up for reelection during the second half of 2020 but the NEA cancelled all district elections and Annual General Membership Assemblies by April of the same year.
The cooperative has scheduled the election for the remaining three directors by July 21, 2021, but the schedule could change after the NEA issued a memorandum on the conduct of district elections and AGMA this year.
Issued last Dec. 9, 2020, Memorandum No. 2020-058 allows electric cooperatives whose 2020 district elections were affected by the cancellation to schedule the polls in 2021 along with the regularly-scheduled elections, provided they shall ensure compliance to safety and health protocols and other authorities, including securing permission from the LGUs.
“All directors elected in the deferred election shall immediately assume office upon taking their oath abnd shall serve only the remaining portion of the current three-year term,” NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong stated in the memo.
The deferred elections supposed to be held in the first and second quarters of 2020 will now be held during the first and second quarters of 2021 while the deferred elections for the third and fourth quarters last year will be held in the same period this year.
The regular elections originally scheduled for 2021 will also proceed, along with the virtual Annual General Membership Assembly (AGMA), for which the cooperative is mandated to submit proof of notice to all member-consumer-owners (MCOs) as provided under its By-Laws.
Traditionally, FICELCO’s district elections in the recent past have been marked by vote-buying, with politicians as well as power industry players fielding or supporting their own candidates.
With campaigning for the 2022 national and local elections less than a year away, those aiming for the cooperative board seats are expected to seek much-needed support from such powerful backers.