ERC chief won't quit

By Iris Gonzales, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 25 2014 02:04 AM | Updated as of Jan 25 2014 10:04 AM

Palace suggests voluntary resignation for Ducut

MANILA, Philippines - Amid calls by critics and suggestions by Malacanang for her to resign for alleged failure to stop skyrocketing electricity rates, Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairman Zenaida Ducut will not leave her post.

“The professionalism and reputation of the entire ERC organization is at stake here and I will not abandon but will lead my people to what is proper and appropriate,” Ducut said in a statement.

She said in her five years and seven months as ERC head, she has faced every challenge in the transition to an open and competitive electricity sector. Ducut thanked Malacañang for the “fair treatment” she received on the issue lodged against her.

“I thank the President and Secretary (Herminio) Coloma for not quickly passing judgment based on the complaint alone and for affording me the right to due process. I will answer the complaint filed against me as soon as I receive a copy from Malacañang,” she said.

“The ERC will not be drawn into any name calling, hasty and emotional statements, as we do not seek publicity nor self-serving positions or aspirations, unlike some detractors who are using this issue for self aggrandizement,” she added.

Voluntary resignation

Voluntary resignation is one option Ducut may avail of amid persistent calls for her to step down, Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said.

The ERC is an independent body and its chief enjoys a fixed term, he added.

“There is this option on voluntary resignation, and I think that is where the ob-servers are looking,” Coloma told a news conference. “As far as I know, and this needs to be verified, it has a fixed term and we cannot just re- move her from office.”

According to Coloma, both the Office of the President (OP) and the Office of the Ombudsman have “concurrent jurisdiction” over Ducut – who was appointed by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – with regard the complaint filed against her.

“Because the case has been filed with the OP, then it will take cognizance of the complaint. Suspension can be imposed if warranted only after respondent shall have submitted her comments. Due process shall be observed,” he said.

Coloma said Aquino is “personally monitoring” the developments of the case, making sure that this is a priority of the government in light of reported collusion among power producers that led to unreasonable price increases.

“The President is focused on this case. This means he is in constant coordination with concerned agencies and has been asking them for the progress that they have made on the case,” he said.

Coloma said the government will not hesitate to use its power should evidence of collusion and neglect be established.

He said consumers should not bear the brunt of price hikes if power producers were the ones who made wrong business decisions.

“To summarize, here are the salient points of the President’s position: Number one, preparation and contingency planning; number two, prevention and regulation; number three, protection of citizen’s welfare,” he said. – With Delon Porcalla