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5 ERC officials sued for graft over ‘extravagant’ travels

/ 05:02 PM July 19, 2017
The Office of the Ombudsman

The Office of the Ombudsman (File photo by NINO JESUS ORBETA / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Published: 12:34 p.m., July 19, 2017 | Updated: 7:02 p.m., July 19, 2017

Officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) are now facing charges of graft, indirect bribery, and technical malversation before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly receiving money from a regulated company to fund their junkets abroad.

Sanlakas Secretary General Jose Aaron Pedrosa Jr. went to the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday to file the criminal complaint against ERC Commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Asirit, Geronimo Sta. Ana, and Debora Layugan.

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Pedrosa alleged that the officials from 2009 to 2015 were “recipients” of money from the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), which is regulated by the ERC, to finance their travels abroad.

“Yung pondo para sa monitoring, imbes gamitin sa monitoring ay ginamit sa personal na interest.” Pedroso said in an interview with reporters.

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In the complaint, Pedrosa and another complainant, Freedom from Debt Coalition Secretary General Samuel Cesar Gamboa, said the commissioners’ travels were not connected with their mandate to regulate the electric power industry.

“Respondents have been the recipients of various amounts from PEMC to cover their airline tickets, hotel accommodation, clothing allowance, and the like for their travels abroad,” the complaint stated.

The ERC commissioners also allegedly failed to liquidate the funds they received from PEMC, the complaint added.

In the complaint Pedrosa said respondents should be held criminally liable for graft for receiving funds from PEMC for their personal benefit.

The commissioners committed violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when they showed “evident bad faith” in receiving the funds for their junket not in connection with a contract or transaction with government but for their “pecuniary or material benefit,” the complaint stated.

“Records obtained by the complainants would readily show that they all received large sums of money to finance their travels abroad which are certainly for their own personal benefit,” the complaint read.

According to the complaint, the ERC commissioners’ travel expenses funded by PEMC amounted to around P15.04 million – Layugan with P5,881,957.62, Taruc with P4,899,120.1, Non with P 3,516,520.45, and Asirit with P741,921.80.

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The ERC commissioners’ trips included various meetings, hotel accommodations, clothing allowances, transportation costs in countries such as Australia, Florida, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Germany, among others.

“Further research and examination of official records reveal that respondents have not only been illegally receiving funds from PEMC, they have also sourced a number of their travel funds from other regulated entities of ERC whose identities only they know of,” the complaint stated.

The ERC commissioners were also covered with a pre-departure expenditure of P1,500 for each travel, the complaint said.

The complainants said the commissioners could also be held liable for indirect bribery for receiving the travel funds in their capacity as commissioners.

“It is very clear that the money from the regulated entities was accepted by the respondents by reason of their office,” the complaint read.

The commissioners also allegedly committed technical malversation of public funds by splurging on travels abroad using funds from PEMC even though their mandate is to monitor the PEMC.

“Respondents, by using the money to fund their travels abroad, have blatantly violated the fundamental principle that ‘public funds can be used only for a public purpose’,” the complaint read.

“Here, the clear purpose of the earmarked funds is for the monitoring facilities of ERC over the PEMC,” it added. “Thus, spending the funds on a purpose different than what is intended y law is tantamount to technical malversation.”

The same complainants had earlier filed a graft case against the ERC officials for allegedly favoring Manila Electric Company (Meralco) in the grant of allegedly “sweetheart” power supply deals. –With a report from Celine Amilhamja, INQUIRER.net intern /JPV /atm

READ: ERC sued over Meralco ‘sweetheart’ power deals
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TAGS: Energy Regulatory Commission, Graft and Corruption, Office of the Ombudsman
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