Four commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), who were previously suspended for a year by the Office of the Ombudsman, have been ordered again by the antigraft body to temporarily vacate their posts for three months.
In a 14-page resolution, the Ombudsman found ERC Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana guilty of simple neglect of duty for letting power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) use billions of pesos in electric bill deposits of its consumers to finance its operations.
The Ombudsman meted out a yearlong suspension on the four ERC officials in December 2017, but the Court of Appeals issued an injunction order allowing them to return to work in April.
‘Omitting to act’
The four, said the Ombudsman in an order dated May 18, “are liable for tolerating the misuse” of the electric bill deposits of consumers “by allowing its commingling with the capital or operation cost of Meralco.”
The Ombudsman said the officials were guilty of gross neglect “by omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act.”
The three-month suspension of the four ERC executives was recommended by Ombudsman graft investigator Cherry Bautista-Bolo and was approved by Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang.
The antigraft body’s decision stemmed from a complaint filed by the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms Inc., which had originally accused Sta. Ana, Non, Asirit and Taruc of committing syndicated estafa.
The Ombudsman noted that the law mandated customers of power utilities like Meralco to pay bill deposits explicitly as “guarantee for the payment of bills.”
It faulted the ERC commissioners for their failure to order Meralco to place all the bill deposits in an escrow account.
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