SC asked to enforce ERC execs’ suspension

THE Supreme Court has been asked to order the implementation of the suspension order against four Energy Regulatory Commission officials who had been found administratively liable for favoring Manila Electric Co.

In a 17-page petition, the militant group Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas sought to nullify the temporary restraining order issued by the Court of Appeals last month enjoining the enforcement of the one-year suspension order issued last December by the Office of the Ombudsman against ERC commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana.

The petitioner also asked for the issuance of TRO or status quo ante order enjoining the CA’s ninth division from further acting on the case or nullifying the suspension order issued last December by the Office of the Ombudsman. 

The ABP stressed the CA committed error in stopping the one-year suspension order, which should have been immediately executory under the law.

“The Ombudsman’s decision in imposing the penalty of suspension for one year is immediately executor pending appeal. It cannot be stayed by the mere filing of an appeal to the CA,” the petitioner said, citing the Court’s ruling in Ombudsman vs. Samaniego.

“In this case, the public respondent committed or acted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed resolution granting a TRO against an appealable decision of the Office of the Ombudsman, when jurisprudence is clear on the matter and the principle as to the nature of such Ombudsman decision is already settled. The assailed order was issued with grave abuse of discretion and was patently erroneous,” the petitioner added.

Petitioner also argued that the 60-day TRO issued by the CA was an “encroachment on the rule-making powers of the Ombudsman under the Constitution, which grants the Office of the Ombudsman the authority to promulgate its own rules of procedure.”

“The Court of Appeals, even on terms it may deem just, has no discretion to stay a decision of the Ombudsman, as such procedural matter is governed specifically by the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman,” it said.

Besides, ABP said allowing the commissioners to return to their work in the ERC could influence the immediate resolution of the “midnight contracts.”

Records show the Ombudsman ordered the one-year suspension of the four petitioners after finding them “administratively liable for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, aggravated by simple misconduct and simple neglect of duty.”

They were also charged with violation of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) before the Sandiganbayan.

The Ombudsman also penalized ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar. 

But the administrative penalty against him became moot after President Duterte ordered his dismissal from the service last October.

The case stemmed from allegations that the ERC officials gave due preference to Meralco and its power supply agreements with affiliated power generation companies by extending the deadline for compliance of the competitive selective process (CSP).

The Ombudsman held that the ERC commissioners “cannot feign ignorance” when Meralco took advantage of the resetting the effectivity date of the competitive selection process.

The ERC had reset the CSP’s effectivity date from Nov 6, 2015 to April 30, 2016, exempting the PSAs from undergoing transparent and public bidding ordained in the CSP.

The Ombudsman said the ERC commissioners exercised “gross inexcusable negligence” in delaying the CSP’s implementation since the process was put in place to make the PSAs’ cost more reasonable.

It ruled that the commissioners clearly favored Meralco through the delay.

Under the CSP, distribution utilities may execute a power supply agreement with a generation company after complying with the requirements. 

The distribution utility is required to open the bidding from generation companies to ensure the least cost of electricity. 

The ERC will not allow distribution utilities to file applications for PSA without complying with the CSP requirements.

However, ERC moved the deadline allegedly to accommodate Meralco, which submitted the seven PSAs a day before the deadline, including those for its two subsidiaries of Meralco Powergen Corp. (MGen) – Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc., and Atimonan One Energy, Inc.

The seven Meralco PSAs—all coal-fired power plants—are: Redondo Peninsula Energy Incorporated, Atimonan One Energy Incorporated, Central Luzon Premiere Power Corporation, St Raphael Power Generation Corporation, Global Luzon Energy Development Corporation, Mariveles Power Generation Corporation and Panay Energy Development Corporation.

The Ombudsman made the ruling in view of the complaint filed by the non-government organization Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas in 2016.

Topics: Supreme Court , implementation of the suspension order , Energy Regulatory Commission , Manila Electric Co. , Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas
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