Solon welcomes suspension of 4 ERC officials over Meralco bill deposits issue

The order of the Office of the Ombudsman to suspend again the four commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for neglect of duty bolsters the earlier findings of a House probe that “ERC commissioners are colluding with Meralco to the detriment of consumers,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said in a statement issued on Monday.

“The Ombudsman’s new decision strengthens the joint committee report especially since these four (4) Commissioners and the company involved are one and the same,” Zarate said. “We cannot blame people for thinking that these ERC commissioners are colluding with Meralco to the detriment of consumers.”

The House probe, Zarate added, also concluded that evidence of malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance existed to warrant the filing of charges against them over the earlier seven sweetheart deals with Meralco-affiliated generation companies.

“This is definitely more than a whiff of corruption,” Zarate said.

The ERC, he added, was protecting more the interests of “power oligarchs” rather than consumers.

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 Meralco use billions of pesos in electric bill deposits of its consumers to finance its operations.

READ: ERC execs ordered suspended anew

But Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga, when asked for comment, clarified that the bill deposit applied to all distribution utilities and electric cooperatives in the country and was covered under Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers.

“The bill deposit applies to all distribution utilities and electric cooperatives in the country,” Zaldarriaga told in a text message. “The implementation is covered by Chapter 3 Article 28 consumer obligations or obligation to pay bill deposit. We merely follow rules and legal directives emanating from the regulator.”

READ: Bill deposit is consumers’ obligation – Meralco

Earlier, the Ombudsman also slapped the four with the administrative penalty of a one-year suspension for accommodating Meralco’s seven power-supply agreements with its own sister companies even without undergoing the mandatory competitive selection process.

However, the suspension order was stopped by the Court of Appeals. /atm

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