Palace to probe ERC exec’s death
President Duterte has directed authorities to look into the death of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) director Francisco Jose Villa Jr., who took his own life allegedly due to pressure from his superior to rig government contracts.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Sunday said the President wanted an investigation of Villa’s death as it was being linked to supposed corruption activities involving ERC Chair Jose Vicente Salazar.
“(The President) has ordered the immediate investigation of the ERC…There will be no sacred cows (in the probe),” Andanar said in a text message.
He, however, could not tell which law enforcement agency will conduct the investigation.
Last week, the consumer group Alyansa para sa Bagong Pilipinas (ABP) called on Mr. Duterte to look into the Nov. 9 suicide of the ERC executive, saying it could be linked to irregularities in the agency tasked with regulating power distribution utilities.
In a statement, ABP secretary general Aya Jallorina said the ERC “should be cleansed” and that it was “high time for President Duterte to lick corruption in that government agency.”
Salazar has denied insinuations that he coerced Villa to award certain projects to his favored companies which could have led the latter to commit suicide.
In one of his suicide notes, the 54-year-old Villa wrote: “My greatest fear in the bids and awards committee is the AVP by Luis Morelos which the chairman and CEO, Jose Vicente B. Salazar, chose through a rigged selection system. That will be a criminal act.”
Broadcast journalist Charie Villa said her brother was “pressured to approve contracts for procurements and hiring consultants without proper bidding and procedure as bids and awards committee chairman.”
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, meanwhile, has written a letter to Charie Villa offering the department’s sincerest sympathies on the unexpected death of her brother.
Cusi said the Department of Energy, together with the ERC, was resolute in finding out the truth behind the allegations and issues raised by Villa’s death.
“We need a strong energy regulator and a united energy family. Our strength should be based on the truth. As the leader of the sector, I enjoin everyone to be fair,” Cusi said in a statement.
The energy secretary said he had talked with the ERC commissioners. “I am pleased that they too want to get to the bottom of this. I have assured them of the department’s support in carrying out their mandate in protecting electricity consumers,” Cusi said.
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