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Fire entire ERC board with Ducut, Aquino urged

Energy Regulatory Commission Chairperson Zenaida Cruz-Ducut. PHOTO BY RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines—Some administration allies have urged Malacañang to fire not only Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chair and CEO Zenaida Cruz-Ducut but the rest of the agency’s board as well, including the niece of Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello said his group filed last week an administrative complaint that zeroed in on Ducut “under the principle of command responsibility.”

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“But if the investigation by the Office of the President reveals that the commissioners acted in concert and no one registered dissent or apprehension over the swiftness of the decision to approve the power rate hike with no investigation of its basis and a public consultation, then they would all be responsible. The President would be justified in firing them all,” said Bello in a text message.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said Ducut and the other ERC board members deserved a pink slip for failing to protect the public interest when they did not resist the proposed P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate hike sought by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

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“There was hardly a dissenting opinion from anyone of them, there was only a defeaning silence,” said Barzaga, who was part of the House energy committee investigating allegations of collusion between power industry players and regulators, which led to the record-high rate increase meant to cover for supply changes during the monthlong shutdown of the Malampaya gas field.

Aside from Ducut, who has also been accused of being a bag woman for alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, the members of the ERC board are Alfredo J. Non, lawyer Gloria Victoria C. Yap-Taruc and lawyer Josefina Patricia M. Asirit, Almendras’ niece. The fifth ERC seat is vacant.

Ducut has refused to budge from her post as she defended the ERC’s approval of a staggered implementation of a record P4.15/kWh increase in power generation and other pass-on charges for the month of November 2013, which has been ordered frozen by the Supreme Court.

“There was no irregularity in approving the clearance sought for the staggered generation cost-recovery of Meralco because the decision was made only with the end-view of cushioning the impact on the electricity consumers,” said Ducut in a statement issued Friday.

The increase, Ducut said, was calculated in accordance with the Automatic Rate Adjustment (AGRA) rules that had been in force since before she became ERC chief.

On Sunday, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV exhorted consumers to exert pressure on Malacañang to sack Ducut for incompetence.

“If there’s no political will, we should exert political pressure on the executive branch. The ERC officials have no more purpose to stay at their jobs,” he said over dzBB radio.

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Trillanes said Meralco could not escape liability for the record-high power rate despite its claims that it was merely passing on generation charges to customers.

He demanded that Meralco disclose the contents of its contracts with the power generators, saying that he had received information the contracted price could be increased, but not reduced.

Malacañang said Ducut could be placed under preventive suspension, but added that she could also voluntarily resign.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. had said that the ERC was an independent body, and that Ducut could not be removed because she had a fixed term.

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Walden Bello tells Zenaida Ducut to pack up

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TAGS: Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), ERC board, power rate hikes, Walden Bello, Zenaida Cruz-Ducut
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