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Trillanes to Aquino: Use Malampaya fund to cushion power rate hike

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 09:26 PM December 15, 2013

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. EDWIN BACASMAS/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — President Aquino is not helpless at cushioning the impact of the power rate increase on consumers, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said on Sunday.

Trillanes challenged the President to test the Supreme Court ruling on the Malampaya Fund by tapping it to benefit consumers facing a P4.15 per kilowatt hour increase in power rates.

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Since the fund has been used to subsidize energy-related projects in the past, the President could do the same now, power rates being energy-related, Trillanes said.

He said those who wished to question this may go to court. But without a case, the President could go ahead with it.

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“That’s just his interpretation of the ruling. It doesn’t say it’s illegal to tap it. He should go ahead with it and let the Supreme Court say it’s illegal,’’ Trillanes said in a radio interview, reacting to the President’s admission that he was barred from using the Malampaya Fund to repair toppled power lines and transmission towers.

“As the saying goes, if you’re keen on doing something, you can think of many ways to do it. Otherwise, you offer a lot of excuses,” he said.

Mr. Aquino told reporters in Tokyo that he was bound by the Supreme Court ruling barring the use of the Malampaya Fund for subsidies to power consumers, such as the reestablishment of power distribution lines toppled by Supertyphoon “Yolanda’’ (Haiyan).

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) last Monday approved the power rate adjustment for the franchise area of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), setting off a furor among consumers grappling with increases in the prices of cooking gas and petroleum products.

In a recent ruling, the high court removed presidential discretion over the Malampaya Fund, which represents government revenue from the sale of natural gas from the Malampaya gas fields off the coast of Palawan.

Trillanes also proposed that the executive branch tap into the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to subsidize consumers.

Apart from the lawmakers, the public should put political pressure on government officials not to yield to the power rate increase, Trillanes said.

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On Wednesday, the Senate energy committee is opening an inquiry into the power rate increase.

The committee seeks to look into possible collusion among power plants that simultaneously shut down last month; the mandate of the ERC; the effectivity of the Electric Power Reform Industry Act, and the long-term plans of the government on energy efficiency.

The simultaneous shutdown prompted Meralco to buy more expensive power from the spot market and pass the additional cost to its customers.

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t121613news2-INS/No basis to impeach SC justices over pork, lawmaker’s disqualification – lawyer

MANILA, Philippines — The threat to impeach certain Supreme Court justices over two recent controversial actions they took would not likely prosper for lack of legal or constitutional basis, lawyer Romulo Macalintal said on Sunday.

Macalintal was referring to threats made by some lawmakers to impeach some justices for alleged betrayal of public trust over their decision not only to declare all previous and pork barrel funds in Congress as unconstitutional but also to disqualify Marinduque Rep. Regina Reyes for failing to give up her American citizenship.

The high court made the landmark decision abolishing the pork barrel or the priority development assistance fund in November while it affirmed the Commission on Elections’ ruling disqualifying Reyes as a candidate in the May 2013 elections last week.

In a statement, Macalintal said the justices could not be charged with betrayal of public trust for siding with the people who have been opposing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

“On the contrary, the lawmakers were the ones who betrayed the public trust when, since time immemorial, they wittingly or unwittingly allowed the misappropriation or mishandling of the public funds under PDAF or the so-called pork barrel funds,” Macalintal said.

He said the high court “merely sustained the valid and meritorious complaint of the public against the illegal intervention or participation of the lawmakers in the various stages of the implementation of the projects funded under the PDAF.”

Macalintal also said there was no legal basis to impeach the justices for sustaining the decision of the Commission on Elections to disqualify Reyes in the May 2013 elections.

He said that Reyes lost her case with the high court where she challenged the Comelec decision.

Macalintal said lawmakers were defying the high court ruling and usurping the powers of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) because Reyes did not take her case before HRET. There was also no pending case of Reyes before the high court — in reference to Reyes’ earlier move to withdraw her case there.

“No HRET decision pertaining to Reyes case has been reviewed and reversed by the Supreme Court, hence, there is clearly no basis to impeach the justices on the Reyes case,” he said.

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TAGS: Antonio Trillanes IV, Benigno Aquino III, electricity rate hikes, government funds, Malampaya Gas Fund, news, Philippine Congress, Philippine president, Senate, subsidy
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