EDITORIAL - Accountability
() - May 28, 2002 - 12:00am
Should former presidents appear before Congress to explain official acts during their incumbency? That question has again cropped up as the nation gropes for ways to deal with the energy problem, or more specifically the high cost of electricity in terms of the purchased power adjustment (PPA) which appears in our electric bills like interest charges for the crisis solved almost a decade ago.

Lawmakers as expected try to find someone to bear the blame for the mess, including occasional massive power outages that leave the public sweating and stuck in traffic jams. Finger-pointing has inevitably focused on Fidel Ramos, whose administration ended the ruinous blackouts in 1992 by sealing deals with independent power producers. The IPPs provided electricity quickly but at a high cost.

Lawmakers have been raring to grill Ramos amid allegations of overpricing or fat commissions from the IPP contracts. Ramos has cooperated with legislators in the past, appearing before Congress to explain the Centennial Expo project.

But at least two administration senators have expressed reservations in an ex-president testifying and having to account for acts done during his administration, saying this would effectively set a precedent. What would prevent courts from issuing a subpoena to legislators to explain the vote they cast for a law that has had far-reaching repercussions on the nation? they reasoned.

Ramos should testify, but not at the risk of political grandstanding so inherent in these investigations conducted in the so-called aid-of-legislation.

President Arroyo herself has virtually cleared her benefactor and partymate, saying the higher PPA charges were due to the collective fallout resulting from the 1997 regional currency crisis as well as the sloppy administration of her predecessor Joseph Estrada whose happy-go-lucky ways all but eroded investor confidence.

Let the lawmakers conduct their inquiry and get to the bottom of this by all means, even if it means working overtime and beyond the call of duty, till the midnight lamp burns out and the bill collectors come banging on the door way past adjournment of session.

But as usual it would be the public that will shoulder the PPA costs, which have to be paid anyway, whether next month or over a period of several years. Sometimes being grilled over a slow fire is better than to be left totally in the dark, in a manner of speaking, at least until the next power tripping. Kuryente, it’s called.

ADMINISTRATION CENTENNIAL EXPO EXPLAIN FIDEL RAMOS JOSEPH ESTRADA KURYENTE LAWMAKERS POWER PRESIDENT ARROYO RAMOS
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