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ERC execs face graft raps; Rody warns of abolition

Top officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) headed by Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar are now facing graft, ethics and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged role in questionable contracts with the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco). STAR, file

MANILA, Philippines - Top officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) headed by Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar are now facing graft, ethics and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged role in questionable contracts with the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

The filing of the complaints by the group Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas (ABP) came as President Duterte threatened to abolish the ERC following its officials’ defiance of his order for them to resign.

The ABP said Salazar along with Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Magpale-Asirit, and Geronio Sta. Ana should be held responsible criminally and administratively for their actions.

In its complaint, ABP said the ERC officials  arbitrarily postponed the implementation of the agency’s own rules for Competitive Selection Process (CSP), allowing Meralco to secure “seven midnight coal contracts totaling 3,551 megawatts worth $10 billion without benefit of public bidding” in April this year.

ABP said such was a violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Republic Act 6713 or the code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees.

“The contracts are onerous and anti-people. ERC is supposed to be protecting consumers as a rate-regulating body. It seems the other way around,” ABP secretary general Aya Jallorina said in a statement after the filing of the complaint.

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“It isn’t providing least cost power as mandated by EPIRA. It is in fact obviously favoring DUs (distribution utilities). It is easy to see why.” 

EPIRA stands for Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

Abolish ERC

Shortly after arriving in Davao City from Peru Wednesday night, Duterte threatened to abolish the ERC amid allegations of corruption in the agency, which came to light after the suicide of director Francisco Villa Jr.

“In the light of the recent developments in the Energy Regulatory Commission, I have directed a comprehensive review of all legal remedies to overhaul and effect fundamental changes in the agency, including the officials,” Duterte said.

“I demanded that they all resign. Ayaw ninyo, dali lang ‘yan (If you refuse, that’s easy). We will abolish the office. I will not grant any single centavo,” he said. “You can stay there forever. I’ll set up another – Eh, kayo ‘yung, you hear the petitions for increases sa itong energy, electric.”

Duterte said he is serious about the campaign against corruption, and admitted feeling exasperated at hearing persistent reports about illegal activities in the agency.

“How can I serve the people with a corrupt government, kagaya ng nangyari sa opisina ninyo (like what happened in your office)? I am not attributing it to anybody,” he said.

Duterte also called on the public to support his anti-corruption effort even more and warned errant officials of severe punishment if found guilty.

“Let’s work hard together to sustain, if not surpass, what the Philippines so far has achieved to improve the ease of doing business, suppress criminality and eliminate corruption,” he said.

“I have previously enjoined all government agencies to be aboveboard in their transactions. I am now reiterating my position that all allegations of corruption shall be dealt with seriously… severely,” the President said.

Duterte said corrupt officials are worse than rebels with whom he is talking peace.

“My desire is to just be at peace with my countrymen, even with Moros,” he said.

“Corruption is something I can never accept. It’s been here for a long time now. I am not trying to point out an era here but it’s been here since I was student, I tell you,” he said.

“Kasasawa ko na sa inyo (I’m getting tired of you)… Be content with your allowances ... And do not make the government as a milking cow,” he said. – With Iris Gonzales, Christina Mendez, Danessa Rivera

 

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