A party-list lawmaker on Monday dismissed as “pure blackmail” the claim of the Energy Regulatory Commission that massive blackouts will take place as soon as the Ombudsman’s order of suspension against its four commissioners takes effect.
Last Thursday, the Ombudsman ordered a one-year suspension of ERC Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Magpala-Asirit, and Geronimo Sta. Ana for allowing power utilities like the Manila Electric Company or Meralco to skirt the required bidding process for energy agreements.
“It is clear that [the] Commissioners… were found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, aggravated by simple misconduct and simple neglect of duty by the Office of the Ombudsman and the said decision should be implemented,” Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate said.
“They committed an offense detrimental to the public and they should be made accountable and not treated as sacred cows.”
Zarate has filed House Resolution 566 asking Congress to consider his allegation that the power supply agreements or PSAs were “sweetheart deals” between Meralco and the ERC, since they were accepted by the Commission despite the lapse of the application deadline at 5 p.m. on April 29, 2016.
The lawmaker dared the Palace to prove its sincerity in fighting corruption by ordering the outright dismissal of the four ERC commissioners, and appoint replacements whose track record were not tainted with alleged corruption.
“In fact, with the Ombudsman’s findings, the Office of the President can even dismiss these erring commissioners and appoint news ones who would really look out for the best interest of the consumers,” Zarate said.
“The decision of the Ombudsman, as well as the anomalous facts established in the House probe, point not just to a whiff of corruption but stinks of it,” he added, referring to the seven Meralco PSAs that ERC “accommodated” despite the lapse of the filing date for exemption of the now mandatory competitive selection process.
Earlier, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairperson of the House committee on good government and public accountability, which conducts the congressional probe into the matter, welcomed the Ombudsman’ order to suspend the four ERC commissioners owing to seven questionable Meralco-linked energy deals.
Pimentel said the suspension of the Ombudsman “just proves that our committee hearing was in the right direction.”
He said the congressional inquiry conducted by the committee, together with the House committee on energy chaired by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, was proper as it “established the facts that the competitive selection process done by the ERC was rigged to favor Meralco and its affiliating companies.”
Zarate echoed Pimentel’s view, and said the Ombudsman decision must lead to the junking of the deals.
“I think that with the Ombudsman decision and the facts established during the hearings… it would be prudent for the ERC to junk these deals and start a new and true competitive selection process,” Zarate said.
He added: “These deals would cost electric consumers P12.44 billion annually for 20 to 21 years, and with the newly signed tax reform package, this would definitely increase further.”
The subject PSAs, which include deals on the construction of coal-fired power plants, are connected to the following gencos: Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. for a 225-megawatt plant; Atimonan One Energy Inc. (1,200 MW); St. Raphael Power Generation Corp. (400 MW); Central Luzon Premiere Power Corp. (528 MW); Mariveles Power Generation Corp. (528 MW); Panay Energy Development Corp. (70 MW); and Global Luzon Energy Development Corp. (600 MW).
During the last hearing on Dec. 12, Pimentel said the draft committee report has already been approved.