MANILA - House minority lawmakers are preparing to ask the Supreme Court to stop Manila Electric Company's (Meralco) power rate hike while others believe the crime of economic sabotage may have been committed by some energy industry players responsible for the increase.
"There are a couple of things we can look at, for instance, price collusion is punishable under our laws," House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said Wednesday. "As former Secretary Bello mentioned, this is nothing less than economic sabotage if you do this against the people."
"I think a very strong case can be made against power companies, maintenance companies, against everybody who is trying to make an extra buck at expense of people," he said.
Zamora backed the ongoing congressional investigation into the power rate hike, which he characterized as the single biggest increase in power distributor Meralco’s history.
“[It's a] 25% increase. It's a huge increase. Now, the stories are coming out that in fact, many of these maintenance issues could have been resolved quite easily," he said. "We are no longer just one of the most expensive for power rates in the whole world. We're now the most expensive in the whole world."
Zamora said high cost of electricity not only affects consumers but also works directly against investments .
"We are also studying possibility of filing a case to prevent the increase," Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said.
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said that aside from possible collusion in the unscheduled plant shutdowns, there must also be an investigation into a possible price-fixing at the wholesale electricity spot market, where Meralco sourced 11.5% of its electricity supply at higher rates.
"Lumabas sa hearing kahapon, 3 kumpanya lang, 3 power producers ang nakinabang sa paglobo ng presyo -- Aboitiz at isa pa," he said. "Iyun ang kailangan imbestigahan."
Tinio also backed plans to stop the rate hike.
He said government should stop plans to tap the Malampaya funds to subsidize the increase. "Kung may collusion nga, bakit gagamitin ang public funds para gantimpalaan iyung private corporations?"
Tinio also slammed the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for approving a staggered hike.
He wants ERC chairperson Zenaida Ducut to quit her post, especially after she was charged for the pork barrel scam.