Ombudsman suspends ERC officials


Posted at Dec 21 2017 04:43 PM | Updated as of Dec 21 2017 05:46 PM

Commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission faced a congressional inquiry in July over allegedly anomalous deals with Meralco and its affiliates. This week, the Office of the Ombudsman suspended them for "conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service." Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - (UPDATED) The Office of the Ombudsman has suspended top officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for a year without pay for allegedly excluding the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and other firms from a competitive selection process (CSP) meant to “elicit the best price” for consumers. 

In its resolution, the Ombudsman found Commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit, and Geronimo Sta. Ana administratively liable for "conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service aggravated by simple misconduct and simple neglect of duty."

ERC's former chairman and chief executive officer Jose Vicente Salazar, who was dismissed in October over a corruption case, was meanwhile meted with a fine equivalent to six months of his salary.

"Their non-implementation of the requirement of CSP cannot hide under the cloak of presumption of regularity in the performance of their official duties. There is sufficient evidence that respondents gave unwarranted benefits to Meralco and other companies by exempting them from the coverage of CSP requirement which was already in effect after 06 November 2015," read the Ombudsman resolution. 

"Their gross inexcusable negligence led to the circumvention of the government policy requiring CSP, and denied the consumers the "opportunities to elicit the best price offers and other PSA terms and conditions from suppliers," it said. 

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, counsel of the petitioners, said the issue stemmed from the ERC's extension of the CSP deadline for the filing of Power Supply Agreements (PSA) to April 30, 2016 from November 2015 supposedly to favor distributor Meralco.

The petitioner, consumer group Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas, alleged in its complaint that this move constituted gross misconduct and negligence, and was in violation of the anti-graft law.

The group also claimed that the deal with Meralco would “approximately total P200 billion in additional burden to Meralco consumers” for 20 years, the Ombudsman resolution read.

Colmenares said seven contracts, amounting to 80 percent of the country's entire power supply, signed with Meralco were to last 20 years, rendered the bidding process "practically useless."

"Yung extension, sa totoo lang, hindi 'yan extension; exemption. Ang nangyari, na-exempt ang Meralco sa CSP," he told DZMM radio, adding that 38 other supply agreements are still pending.

"Warning na rin ito sa mga susunod na appointees diyan na papansinin sila ng publiko ngayon, na hindi niyo pwedeng balasubasin 'yang mga contract na 'yan na ang papasan naman ay tayo," he said.