ERC commissioners ready to resume work
The Energy Regulatory Commission said Monday it will act on pending petitions and applications with urgency, after the Court of Appeals issued a 60-day temporary restraining order stopping the suspension of four commissioners.
“With the TRO issued by the Court of Appeals, the ERC can now resume with the regular performance of our duties and functions and act on petitions with urgency,” ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera said.
The Office of the Ombudsman ordered a one-year suspension of all four commissioners of the ERC―Josefina Patricia Asirit, Alfredo Non, Geronimo Sta. Ana and Gloria Yap-Taruc in December―for allegedly giving Manila Electric Co. an undue advantage when it extended the submission of its PSA applications.
“I’m glad that the CA gave weight on the impact of the vacuum of leadership caused by the Ombudsman’s suspension of the ERC commissioners and considered the welfare of the electric power industry stakeholders, most especially the consuming public who will eventually suffer the consequences of the ERC’s inability to perform its mandate,” she said.
She said there were processes that the applications and petitions must go through, including the pending power supply agreement applications of Manila Electric Co.
“What we can do right now is the promulgation of the 61 cases that we would have done during the time they were suspended,” Devanadera said.
“We’re not talking of timeframe, but we’re talking of propriety, reasonableness of the petition... the usual standards, benchmarks that our technical people apply in their study of applications of PSAs,” she said.
Devanadera said the commission would also act on expiring and expired certificates of compliance so that these companies could continue to trade in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.
Devanadera received the CA resolution, penned by Associate Justice Mariflor Punzalan Castillo, stopping the suspension of the ERC Commissioners ordered by the Office of the Ombudsman in December 2017.
“The Office of the Ombudsman’s suspension basically jeopardized the ERC per se, and the industry that the ERC regulates which is the electric power industry and the consuming public,” Devanadera said.
She said the ERC commissioners were suspended for re-stating the effectivity of its resolution on the CSP “but the CSP is still pending with the Supreme Court and the ERC commissioners must be accorded with substantial due process.”
“By substantive due process, it means that the suspension should be based on a just or authorized cause,” said Devanadera, a former Justice secretary.
The CA issued a resolution on Feb. 9 stating that “in view of the foregoing, and to avoid serious and irreparable disruption in the operation of the ERC and to prevent adverse repercussions on the power industry as a whole,” a 60-day TRO would be issued upon payment of bond in the amount equivalent to three months of their respective salaries.
“This court must look at the big picture and consider the interest of the public, the irreparable injury that it may suffer if a TRO is not issued…Petitioners are public officials performing important duties and functions pertaining to the power sector. We hasten to add that what we give importance to and is of utmost concern is not the petitioners themselves but their office, and the public service that would be and currently is being jeopardized by reason of their present predicament. Here lies the real exigency and urgent necessity which this Court must consider in determining the efficacy of the issuance of the TRO,” it said.