What would Secretary Cusi do?

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, finding himself at the center of the controversy related to the sale of Malampaya to Dennis Uy’s Udenna Group, said it’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.

He is nonetheless ready to face any complaint on the sale of Malampaya to Udenna, he told me in a recent chat.

Davao’s Uy, as we all know, acquired Chevron’s 45 percent stake in Malampaya last year and then Royal Dutch Shell’s 45 percent stake in the gas-to-power project.

In my column last Monday, I looked into the possible reasons why some parties raised concerns on the sale of Chevron’s stake, which was a private transaction and which the Department of Energy (DOE) approved because it met the guidelines set forth in Presidential Decree 87, the act governing indigenous petroleum.

Shell’s stake

Now, issues have been raised as well against the sale of Shell’s stake.

Senator Win Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, has joined the fray and said on Monday that the Department of Energy must also scrutinize Udenna’s deal with Shell, citing Udenna’s lack of financial capability.

The DOE is now reviewing the Shell transaction, but this, I predict, will be more controversial than the Chevron sale because it will seal Uy’s acquisition of a 90 percent stake in Malampaya. At the same time, it’s tricky because I am sure Shell, like Chevron, also did a rigorous process and made sure Udenna met all the requirements, financial and otherwise.

It’s now up to Sec. Cusi and all other concerned parties, including Shell and Udenna, to address the concerns and prove that Udenna is financially capable of running the country’s energy crown jewel.

If Sec. Cusi is unable to justify the DOE’s approval, the controversy may not die down.

“A taxpayers’ case may be filed against the government, citing public interest or crony capitalism,” said the industry source.

I asked Sec. Cusi why didn’t the government just vie for Shell’s stake in Malampaya? He said it was such a costly bet to make using taxpayers’ money because Malampaya’s future is uncertain given its dwindling reserves.

“It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation,” he said.

I wonder how Sec. Cusi will handle this. It will not be easy because of the concerns raised by Gatchalian, Udenna’s financial capability, and the fact that Uy has been getting a lot of deals since 2016.

Whatever the government decides to do, it must act fast because the future of Malampaya and our energy supply is at stake.

Julian Ongpin

Julian Ongpin, the son of tycoon Roberto “RVO” Ongpin, has responded to the Department of Justice’s move to indict him over illegal drugs.

Ongpin, through his legal counsel, asked the Regional Trial Court of San Fernando, La Union Court to defer the issuance of a warrant of arrest, saying that he is still unable to avail of legal remedies, including the filing of a motion for reconsideration within 15 days from the receipt of the DOJ’s resolution.

The DOJ issued a resolution recommending the filing of information against Ongpin for violation of Section 11 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002. This came on the heels of an investigation on the death of artist Bree Jonson last Sept. 18 in La Union, in a resort room she shared with Ongpin.

“To deny petitioner’s claim to a preliminary investigation would be to deprive him the full measure of his right to due process. Hence, if there is a pending motion of the public prosecutor, the court may suspend the proceedings upon motion by the parties,” Ongpin said in his Motion.

Justice system

I received a copy of the Motion via e-mail from Ongpin’s father, RVO.

“All we are asking for is fair due process,” RVO said in his e-mail.

That line caught my attention because it made me think about our justice system and the government’s failed drug war that is very much biased against the poor.

I think about all the drug suspects arrested by the government without due process or worse, killed mysteriously in the dead of night, in muddy slum areas, never to be seen again by their parents or by their sons and daughters.

I think about those who cannot afford legal counsels or don’t know their rights.

RVO has the right to ask for due process for his son. It is his right and it is Julian’s right inasmuch as it is the right of Bree’s family to be accorded a full and proper investigation on the death of the young artist.

Everyone in this country has a right to be treated fairly and right by our justice system – you, me, and everyone we know.

How many times have we heard of justice being denied to hapless individuals? Of court proceedings moving at a snail’s pace? Of respondents unable to afford lawyers?

I hope that one day, we will finally see a justice system where justice indeed prevails, whether you are rich or poor or whether you are a sinner or saint.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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