Speaker Alvarez files bill abolishing ERC
MANILA — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has filed a bill seeking the abolition of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in the aftermath of the suicide of a director over alleged pressures to award anomalous contracts.
“The suspicions raised against the integrity of the ERC, which is primarily entrusted with regulating the country’s electric industry and promoting competition in the market, cannot be ignored,” said Alvarez in filing House Bill No. 5020.
He cited reports on the suicide of ERC Director Francisco Jose Villa, Jr. who left letters alleging shady deals and irregular practices in the ERC.
Under his proposal, the ERC shall be abolished and replaced with the Board of Energy, which shall be an attached agency of the Department of Energy (DOE).
“This will ensure that the newly created board shall be explicitly within the regulatory arm of the government and specifically, within the direct control and supervision of the President,” Alvarez said.
The proposed Board of Energy shall perform the functions of the ERC and be under the supervision and control of the DOE.
It shall be composed of a chairperson and two members to be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the energy secretary, according to the bill.
To ensure no conflict of interest, the bill prohibits the chairperson and members of the board or any of their relatives within the fourth civil degree, consanguinity or affinity, legitimate or common law, from holding any interest whatsoever in any company or entity engaged in the energy business.
If they have involvement in the energy business, they are required to divest all their interests in the energy sector upon assumption of office, the bill states.
The bill also prohibits the appointment to the board of any person who has worked within three years immediately prior to the appointment, or is working in any private firm engaged in the petroleum or electric industry or any other entity whose main business is related to or connected with any such firm.
During the transition period, the ERC and its existing personnel shall continue to exercise their powers and functions. In the filling of positions under the new board, preference shall be given to the personnel of the ERC.
Alvarez said suspicions about irregularity in the ERC’s transactions were bolstered by Villa’s suicide on Nov. 9.
The House committees on good governance and energy recently launched a joint investigation into the circumstances behind the death of Villa, brother of journalist Charie Villa, who left three suicide notes two-and-a-half months before he took his own life.
In one of the notes, Villa expressed concern that he might be called out by the Commission on Audit over an ERC infomercial project that he said Salazar “chose through a rigged bidding selection process.”
That project went to Salazar’s friend Luis Morelos, an advertising executive, who was also named in the note.
“In his suicide note, Villa claimed that his superiors exerted pressure upon his person to approve contracts that disregard the proper regulatory procedures,” Alvarez said.
Villa’s suicide prompted President Duterte to call for the resignation of all the commissioners of ERC to pave the way for a total revamp of the body. SFM/rga
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