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Eyebrows raised over court’s TRO vs Ombudsman

A party-list group on Sunday criticized the decision by the Court of Appeals to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the Office of the Ombudsman from suspending four commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission for a year, for giving favored treatment to the Manila Electric Co. 

“Why would the CA jump the gun on the Office of the President as to when and who will be appointed as temporary or acting commissioners? Also why would the CA thwart the implementation of the executory decision of the Office of the Ombudsman?” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

Zarate cited a June 2014 Supreme Court decision that was “categorical in providing that an appeal shall not stop the decision from being executory, and that such shall be executed as a matter of course.”

The party-list lawmaker warned that “restraining the executory suspension of the erring commissioners may be interpreted as undue interference on the powers and independence of the Office of the Ombudsman, as well as the Office of the President.”

In a resolution dated Feb. 9, 2018, the CA’s 9th Division through Associate Justice Mariflor Punzalan Castillo, issued a 60-day TRO against the resolution of the anti-graft body suspending the four ERC commissioners for one year.

The resolution concurred in by Associate Justices Danton Bueser and Henry Inting was issued so as not to “impair public service.”

Malacañang has not appointed replacements for the four ERC commissioners--Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Magpale-Asirit and Geronimo Sta.Ana--since the Ombudsman ordered their suspension on Dec. 11, 2017.

According to the appellate court, the issuance of TRO is necessary to prevent “grave and irreparable injury” to the petitioners.

The four ERC officials were suspended by the Ombudsman for extending the deadline for compliance of the competitive selective process, thus giving preference to Meralco and its affiliated power generation companies.

 In two separate resolutions released on Dec. 11, the Ombudsman also indicted the said ERC commissioners before the Sandiganbayan.

 The anti-graft body said the ERC commissioners are “administratively liable for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, aggravated by simple misconduct and simple neglect of duty” based on civil service rules.

 It also ruled that the ERC commissioners “cannot feign ignorance” when Meralco took advantage of the resetting the effectivity date of the competitive selection process.

The Ombudsman also held ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar liable, but President Rodrigo Duterte has already dismissed him from the service in October.

The anti-graft body made the ruling in view of the complaint filed by the non-government organization Alyansa Para sa BagongPilipinas in 2016.

The case stemmed from the decision of the ERC to reset the CSP’s effectivity date from Nov, 6, 2015 to April 30, 2016, exempting the PSAs from undergoing transparent and public bidding required by the CSP.

The Ombudsman said the ERC commissioners exercised “gross inexcusable negligence” in delaying the CSP’s implementation since the process was put in place to make the PSAs’ cost more reasonable.

The Ombudsman said it was clear that the commissioners favored Meralco through the delay. 

“There is sufficient evidence that respondents gave unwarranted benefits to Meralco and other companies by exempting them from the coverage of the CSP requirement, which was already in effect after 06 November 2015. The 45-day period gave Meralco and other companies the opportunity to dispense with CSP,” the Ombudsman added.

Topics: TRO vs Ombudsman
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