Customs lawyer must be probed

"There is no justification of how she could have legally accumulated all her property if she relied on her salary alone."


If the Duterte government is out to prove how serious it is in fighting corruption, its lead agency, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, should take seriously the complaint filed by Ed Cordevilla against Customs Collector V Lourdes Mangaoang for alleged unexplained wealth, lavish lifestyle, excessive assets and other accumulated ownership that is grossly disproportionate to her salary as a government employee. The commission must initiate a no-nonsense probe on the matter.

Cordevilla, the complainant and leader of the group calling for public accountability of government officials suspected of having amassed unexplained wealth, said that based on the sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of Mangaoang for the years 2012-2017, there is no justification on how she could have legally accumulated all her property if she relied on her salary alone.

Cordevilla added that as a lawyer, Mangaoang is expected to know the importance of complying wit all the required details stated in the SALN.

Actually, Greco Belgica, PACC commissioner, confirmed having received copy of the complaint and vowed to thoroughly investigate. He also seemed open to expanding the scope of the probe to include family members and relatives who could have fronted for the customs executive in hiding other real properties.

Belgica said his office will coordinate with the Land Registration Authority (LRA) and the BIR to pin down suspected corrupt government officials.

Mangaoang was recently in the news after testifying in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the alleged P6.4 billion worth of shabu that had slipped past the Bureau of Customs.

She served as head of Customs’ X-ray division for a long time in the past administration. Critics are saying that during her stint, no shabu haul was ever accomplished by the BOC compared to the ongoing all-out drive by current Commissioner Isidro Lapeña. Under the latter, the bureau has had an unprecedented haul of shabu intercepted and party drugs, ecstasy and cocaine apprehended.

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A solar energy and storage technology advocate group, the Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance (PSSEA), said that the Solar Para sa Bayan Corp. (SPBC) was not a showcase of renewable energy resulting to more affordable power rates for consumers.

Maria Theresa Capellan, president of the PSSEA, said that a study on the cost of electricity in an off-grid municipality currently served by the SPBC, Paluan, Mindoro Occidental showed it was charging electricity rates five times higher than that being claimed by its founder and chief executive, young businessman Leandro Leviste.

SPC, a subsidiary of Leviste’s Solar Philippines, is a new solar power company that has been thrown into controversy after seeking a nationwide super franchise from Congress.

Leviste, to drum up support for the grant of the super franchise to his SPBC, vowed it will sell electricity as low as at P2.34/kwh.  

SPBC now operates in Paluan, Mindoro Occidental, an area not served by the main power grid of Luzon.   

According to Capellan, solar groups gathered SPBC’s actual cost of electricity from the billing statements of the company’s customers in Paluan.   

Based on these records, SBPC has actually charged some customers over P15 per kilowatt-hour, not the P2.98/kwh cost that Leviste has claimed. Leviste is the son of Senator Loren Legarda.

 “This information casts doubt on SPBC’s claims and should warn our lawmakers and regulators about the folly of gifting any single private company with a super franchise that the company could use to monopolize and capture rates,”  Capellan  added.   

Contrary to public pronouncements, the proposed super franchise does not contain any requirement for Leviste’s company to actually provide electricity to any areas at all, but gives it blanket authorization to engage in the generation, distribution, and supply of solar energy mini-grids, with no government oversight or consumer protections.  

The proposed franchise further allows SPBC to use public spaces and invoke eminent domain or the right to expropriate private property for use of its facilities.  

PSSEA and other groups  are opposing the proposed franchise for SPBC because such a franchise would create a monopoly and inhibit competition, contrary to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and the Renewable Energy Act. 

Distribution utilities and electric cooperatives also oppose the bill as it would grant SPBC the license to encroach into their franchise areas.   

“We reiterate our position that, instead of giving SPBC a super franchise, Congress should pass a law creating a regulatory framework for all mini-grids and micro-grids to operate on an equal footing. Under this alternative proposal, any obligations and incentives for mini-grid and micro-grid projects should apply to all qualified entities,” PSSEA said in a statement.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission , Lourdes Mangaoang , , Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth , Maria Theresa Capellan , Electric Power Industry Reform Act
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