TRO on ERC execs lauded, blasted
Malacañang on Wednesday hailed the Court of Appeals’ (CA) order temporarily halting the one-year suspension of four key officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) by the Ombudsman.
A lawmaker, however, called out the Palace for flip-flopping on the matter, while a multisectoral alliance decried the CA’s intervention.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque called the appeals court’s Feb. 9 temporary restraining order (TRO) a “step in the right direction.”
Without the TRO, the ERC would not have been able to function, he said.
“The Energy Regulatory Commission would have been seriously paralyzed and the economy, particularly the energy sector, would have suffered grave damage had the TRO not been issued,” he said.
Power industry paralysis
ERC Chair Agnes Devanadera had warned that if the four would be unable to do their job, the agency could not fulfill its functions, leading to paralysis in the power industry.
On Dec. 11, 2017, the Ombudsman suspended Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Magpala-Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana for one year for “gross inexcusable negligence.”
This arose from ERC’s deferment of the competitive selection process (CSP) rule, which required electric utilities to hold a bidding for their power supply needs in order to drive down consumer prices, for 45 days in 2016.
This allegedly benefited the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) since it was able to negotiate seven power supply agreements with its sister generation companies for a total supply of 3,551 megawatts.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Malacañang’s support for the CA stay order was a “180-degree inordinate turn” from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea’s Jan. 19 order directing Devanadera to implement the Ombudsman’s order.
“Instead of welcoming the TRO, it should have contested its issuance since it is a transgression of its powers,” he said.
The Power for People (P4P) Coalition, for its part, said the relief from the appeals court meant that consumers may suffer from “at least 20 years of dirtier and costlier energy from coal.”
“The CA cited ‘grave and irreparable injury’ to the four suspended commissioners as a reason for issuing a TRO in their favor … [But] what about the grave and irreparable injury to Meralco’s 19 million customers who will suffer?” Aaron Pedrosa Jr., Sanlakas secretary general and P4P convenor, said in a statement.
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