MANILA, Philippines—If President Benigno Aquino III was able to force former Chief Justice Renato Corona and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez out of office, militant lawmakers do not see any reason why he could not kick out Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chair Zenaida Ducut, who is under fire for tolerating the manipulation of electricity prices and her alleged role as an agent in the P10-billion pork barrel scam of detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said he could not understand why the President would use the standard of proof of a judicial proceeding in refusing to remove Ducut, considering that her case was primarily about her “executive mismanagement and gross neglect of duty in approving without investigation the Meralco rate hike in December.”
“He (President Aquino) is using the criterion of proof beyond reasonable doubt for Ducut, which is not at all appropriate in an executive management decision,” said Bello.
Akbayan and 15 sectoral leaders have filed separate complaints urging the President to fire Ducut for gross neglect of duty, specifically for failing to protect the public from the predatory interests of power industry players.
But President Aquino has balked at removing Ducut, saying she deserved to be given due process. She has been directed to reply to the complaints against her.”
ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said the President could find a way to remove Ducut if he wanted to, just like he did when he endorsed the impeachment cases against Gutierrez (who quit before the Senate trial) and Corona (who was found guilty by the Senate impeachment court). Just like Ducut, Gutierrez and Corona have fixed terms and were appointees of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Yes, the President can find a way to remove Ducut from office. There are certainly more than enough grounds. Malacañang’s silence in this regard should be read as a sign that Ducut continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the President,” said Tinio.
Bayan Muna Rep. Isagani Zarate said: “This Ducut dilemma puts President Aquino’s so-called anticorruption campaign in question. Ducut is not only squarely responsible as ERC chair for the mess that has bedeviled the power sector, she is also implicated in the pork barrel scam. Why Ducut is special is a question that only the President can explain.”
Zarate said the President’s perceived coddling of Ducut was “untenable.” Whistle-blower Benhur Luy has accused Ducut, who provided legal advice to jueteng lord Bong Pineda, of demanding a 5-percent commission for every pork barrel project she brought to Napoles’ fake foundations.
Bello said Akbayan would appeal to Malacañang to be allowed to lay down its case against Ducut before the investigating committee of the Office of the President.