The Supreme Court has dumped the graft case filed before the Pasig City regional trial court against four former commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission who had been accused of allowing electric utilities like Manila Electric Company to forgo the bidding of their power supply requirements at the expense of the public.
The high court, through now retired Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., ruled that the Pasig City RTC had no jurisdiction to hear and resolve the complaint filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against ERC commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefine Patricia Magpale-Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana for graft.
“All actions of and all proceedings undertaken by the RTC of Pasig City in the case are declared null and void for lack of jurisdiction,” the high court said.
It made the ruling as it granted the petition filed by the four former ERC commissioners seeking the annulment of the orders issued by the Pasig City RTC Branch 155 on Sept. 10, 2018, and Oct. 22, 2018, which denied their plea to quash the information against them.
The petitioners had sought the reversal of the judgment rendered by Presiding Judge Maria Gracia Cadiz-Casaclang for denying their motion to quash the information on grounds that the provisions of Republic
Act 10660 do not give jurisdiction to the RTC over the criminal case as it must be tried by a regional trial court in a judicial region other than in the National Capital Judicial Region.
The high court sided with the petitioners that Section 2 of R.A. 10660 clearly provides that the RTC has original and exclusive jurisdiction when the information either does not allege any damage to the government or any bribery or alleges damage to the government or bribery arising from the same or closely related transactions or acts in an amount not exceeding P1 million.
The provision further said that such cases falling within the jurisdiction of the RTC should be tried in a judicial region other than the place where the accused official holds office.
The tribunal did not give credence to the argument raised by the Office of the Ombudsman and the trial court that until the Court comes up with implementing rules, the application of R.A. 10660 should be considered put on hold.
“The Court cannot enlarge, diminish or dictate when jurisdiction shall be removed, given that the power to define, prescribe and apportion jurisdiction is, as a general rule, a matter of legislative prerogative,” the high court said.
The case stemmed from the issuance of ERC Resolution 13 and ERC Resolution 1 by the petitioners that unilaterally postponed the effectivity of the conduct of the competitive selection process on all power supply agreements.
The CSP rules require power distributors to get at least two offers for the supply of electricity before awarding a PSA, ensuring the least cost to electricity consumers.
In a ruling issued on May 3, 2019, the Court voided the ERC resolutions and directed the ERC to conduct CSP on all PSAs submitted by distribution utilities on or after June 30, 2015.
The high court’s ruling granted the petition filed by the Alyansa Para Sa Bagong Pilipinas along with intervenor Bayan Muna seeking the resolutions of the ERC.