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After Ombudsman’s second suspension order, ERC commissioners urged to resign

/ 07:32 PM June 18, 2018

Lawmakers have dared the four commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to resign after the Ombudsman suspended them for the second time in six months.

Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel and Ifugao lone district Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. made the call against Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana on Monday.

“Maybe it’s time they resign,” Pimentel said in a statement.

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READ: ERC execs ordered suspended anew

Last December, the four were also suspended for a year without pay for allowing power utilities like the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to skirt the required bidding process for energy agreements filed before the ERC.

This time, the commissioners were suspended without pay for three months for ‘simple neglect of duty” for allowing Meralco to use the billions of pesos in consumers’ electric bill deposits (BDs) to finance its operations.

This defeats the purpose of BDs, which is to guarantee the payment of bills.

“We have also completed our committee report and we have recommended (the) further investigation of ERC commissioners and if there is substantial evidence to file the necessary cases,” Pimentel added.

The Mindanao lawmaker chairs the House committee on good government and public accountability, which concluded a joint probe last month on the seven alleged “sweetheart” power supply agreements (PSAs) being sought by Meralco-linked generation companies (gencos) before the ERC.

Useless 

Baguilat said it is better for them to resign than be fired by President Rodrigo Duterte.

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The ERC commissioners won’t be able to do their job anyway since they will be placed in the “freezer” for so long, he added.

“Parang inutil na ang ERC kasi di na nila magawa mandate nila (The ERC will be somewhat useless because the commissioners won’t be able to perform their mandate) because they’re all suspended,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, CIBAC Party-List Rep. Sherwin Tugna expressed his support to the Ombudsman’s latest action against the erring officials.

“That is a welcome decision in the fight against mis-governance. We in [the] Citizens’ Battle against Corruption (CIBAC) Party-List supports the decision,” said Tugna, chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms.

The Ombudsman’s decision dated May 18, 2018 stemmed from a complaint filed by the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms Inc. (NASECORE) for syndicated estafa and grave misconduct against the ERC commissioners and Meralco executives.

The complaint questioned the unauthorized use of consumers’ BDs by Meralco, the discriminatory fixing of interests by the ERC, and the non-crediting of the interests earned by the BDs in favor consumers.

The House inquiry conducted by the Good Government panel along with the Committee on energy tackled Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate’s House Resolution (HR) No. 566.

Zarate claimed in his resolution that the ERC bent its own rules to accommodate the PSAs, which were filed after the application deadline at 5 p.m. on April 29, 2016 had lapsed. Hence, the tag “sweetheart deals.”

The Davao-based lawmaker said these power deals were onerous and would only lead to hefty rate hikes.

“It would be prudent for the ERC to junk these deals and start a new and true competitive selection process. These deals would cost electric consumers P12.44 billion annually for 20 to 21 years and with the newly signed tax reform package, this would definitely increase further,” he warned. /ee

READ: Solon welcomes suspension of 4 ERC officials over Meralco bill deposits issue

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TAGS: Alfredo Non, Energy Regulatory Commission, ERC Commissioners, Geronimo Sta. Ana, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit, MERALCO, Nasecore, suspension
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