A lawmaker said Monday the House committee on good government and public accountability will subpoena Luis Morelos, the owner of advertising agency FatFree Inc. implicated in the anomalous infomercial project that led to the suicide of lawyer Francisco Villa Jr., the former head of the bids and awards committee of the Energy Regulatory Commission.
“We’ve had two hearings already on the irregularities at the ERC, and Mr. Morelos failed to show up on both occasions, despite our invitations. We will compel him to attend our next hearing,” said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, committee chairman.
Morelos and ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar are already under preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman regarding the infomercial project, based on a complaint earlier filed by the National Bureau of Investigation.
“We support the complaint filed by the NBI before the Ombudsman. The action appears warranted, so we are all for it,” Pimentel said.
Despite apparent pressure from some of his colleagues at the House, Pimentel said his panel intends to conduct a third hearing on the “fishy” infomercial project and two other anomalies in Salazar’s office.
“We will have one last hearing, and then we will prepare and submit our committee report for plenary approval,” Pimentel said.
Villa, who was also ERC Director for Planning and Information Service, committed suicide on Nov. 9, 2016. He left three letters indicating he was under extreme duress from Salazar to endorse the rigged infomercial project contract with Morelos’ FatFree.
Villa, 54, shot himself in the head with his .38-cal. revolver inside his house in Parañaque City. He was the son of the late Ombudsman Francisco Villa Sr.
“My greatest fear in bids and awards committee is the AVP [audio-visual presentation] by Luis Morelos, which the chairman and CEO, Jose Vicente B. Salazar, chose through a rigged selection system. That will be a criminal act,” Villa wrote in one of his suicide notes that were later made public by his sister, veteran journalist Rosario Sofia “Charie” Villa.
Besides the infomercial project, Pimentel’s panel also uncovered two other irregularities in Salazar’s office that involved the performance of crooked contracts in violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Government Procurement Act.
The panel ascertained that Salazar, an appointee of then President Benigno Aquino III, also ordered the renovation of the ERC chairman’s conference room and obtained new pest control services for the commission, both without a competitive public bidding.