July 10, 2017 at 08:32 pm
Othel V. Campos
Non-government group Laban Konsyumer Inc. filed criminal and administrative cases against the commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission before the Office of the Ombudsman for the agency’s alleged failure to promote consumer interest.
Laban Konsyumer president Vic Dimagiba, a former Trade undersecretary, accused the ERC commissioners of violating the Corrupt Practices Act, the Code of Ethics of Government Officers and the Revised Penal Code.
Laban Konsyumer accused the commissioners of allegedly violating the Code of Conduct governing public officials and gross inexcusable negligence when they allowed Manila Electric Co. to collect P1.7 billion in March, April and May 2017 from Meralco consumers.
The incremental fuel cost in over three months resulted in the increase of P0.2211 per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed in March, April and May 2017.
The consumer group filed the original complaint on March 30, 2017 but later executed a supplemental affidavit complaint to include administrative liability.
The Ombudsman will now proceed with the preliminary investigation of the criminal case and the adjudication of the administrative case.
The respondents were ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar and commissioners Josefina Patricia Magpale -Asirit, Gloria VictoriaYap- Taruc and Geronimo Sta. Ana. Salazar, however, is already under preventive suspension as ordered by the Office of the President over a separate issue.
The consumers’ group challenged an ERC order dated March 6, 2017 when it granted provisional authority in favor of Meralco using the force majeure provisions of the Meralco power supply contracts where force majeure is defined as all forms of fuel supply interruptions .
The commissioners determined an announced and scheduled preventive maintenance shutdown as force majeure and allowed Meralco to pass on all added costs of fuels to the consumers, instead of ordering these added costs to be absorbed by the natural gas supplier.