Solon backs Duterte call for ERC execs' resignations

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 02 2016 12:30 PM

MANILA – A party-list lawmaker is urging top Energy Regulatory Commission officials to resign amid corruption allegations that came out after the death of the ERC's bids and awards committee chairman.

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) party-list Rep. Jericho Jonas Nograles urged ERC Chief Executive Officer Jose Vicente Salazar and members of the ERC Board to spare the commission from further disgrace and embarrassment by voluntarily stepping down from their posts.

"I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but this issue is no longer a question of their innocence or guilt. As far as I am concerned, they are no longer effective in carrying out the mandate of their office," he said. 

"It's like being on a sinking boat, and the only way to save everyone else is for them to jump overboard. They should at least think about the plight of the other ERC employees who would lose their jobs if the entire commission is dissolved."

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier demanded the resignation of ERC officials after getting reports of rampant corruption inside the agency, which was exposed after the death of ERC Director Francisco Villa Jr. 

Before his suicide, Villa wrote three suicide notes that said he was being pressured to approve procurement contracts and hiring consultants without proper bidding and procedure.

ERC director left 3 'suicide notes' before taking his own life
corruption allegations

ERC Director Francisco "Jun" Villa Jr.

Duterte said he will ask Congress to either withhold the budget of ERC or disband the agency altogether. Cases will also be filed against supposed corruption-tainted officials whom Duterte did not name.

"Basta lahat itong opisyal, lahat sila, they have to resign. Binaboy nila 'yung agency,"Duterte said of the supposed corrupt officials.

Duterte demands ERC execs' resignation over 'corruption'

Nograles said the Joint Congressional Power Commission should convene and look into the allegations of corruption among the top ERC officials. He said the JCPC should exercise its oversight powers to ensure the proper implementation of Republic Act (RA) 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Act of 2001 (EPIRA) which created the ERC.

"To abolish the ERC, we will need to amend the entire EPIRA Law. Definitely, Congress is ready to respond to the President's call for the ERC abolition but I suggest that the JCPC should first step in and look into this issue," he said.

He noted the JCPC should convene before the approval of the P3.35-trillion national budget to also look into President Rodrigo Duterte's wish to give the ERC a zero budget due to corruption. 
 
He said the JCPC could also exercise its oversight powers to reorganize the ERC, or even remove ERC officials.

Last Tuesday, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez told media that the House is looking at the problems within the ERC after Duterte called for its abolition.

"Pinag-aaralan na namin. I already advised the Committee on Energy para tingnan...paano natin i-address yung problema diyan sa ERC."

(We are studying this. I already advised the Committee on Energy to look into how we can address problems at the ERC.)