4 ERC officials petition CA to nullify suspension order from Ombudsman

Four commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Monday asked the Court of Appeals to nullify the three-month suspension order imposed on them by the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a 41-page petition, ERC Commissioners Alfredo S. Non, Gloria Victoria C. Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia M. Asirit and Geronimo D. Sta. Ana also urged the appeals court to issue a restraining order agaisnt the suspension order while their petition is pending.

The commissioners were suspended after being found guilty of simple misconduct for allegedly allowing the commingling of the bill deposit with the capital or operation cost of Meralco despite its finding that they are not criminally liable for estafa.

READ: Ombudsman suspends 4 ERC officials over Meralco bill deposits issue

Contrary to the findings of the Ombudsman, the four commissioners insisted that they had done their part to protect the public interest by issuing draft rules to govern the monitoring and reporting process of bill deposits.

The petitioners added that the suspension order could be considered an interference in the rule-making authority of ERC, insisting that complainant – the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, Inc. (Nasecore) – failed to present substantial evidence to prove that they failed to fulfill their duty as commissioners.

“Aside from the fact that there was no evidence presented that there was ‘misuse’ of the Meralco bill deposits, the Ombudsman’s finding that petitioners ‘tolerated the misuse by allowing its commingling’ is contrary to or inconsistent with her Resolution dismissing the criminal aspect of NASECORE’s complaint,” the petitioners said.

The ERC commissioners added that the Ombudsman resorted to “speculation” by saying in its order that they had failed to strictly implement the rules on bill deposits.

“Had the Ombudsman reviewed their counter-affidavits,” the ERC commissioners said, “the Ombudsman would have seen the attached draft ‘Rules to Govern the Monitoring and Reporting Process of Bill Deposits’ that they have formulated.”

Under the draft guidelines, the petitioners seek to ensure the proper accounting and reporting by the distribution utilities of the bill deposit.

“By formulating the above draft guidelines, the petitioners, contrary to the finding of the Ombudsman, have every intention of ensuring not only that the bill deposit remains to be a guarantee for payment of bills, but also to make the distribution utilities utilizing it to account and report its utilization in a transparent and efficient manner,” the petitioners pointed out.

“Not only that, the petitioners are proposing that such bill deposit must be deposited in one bank account, which is akin to an escrow account being suggested by the Ombudsman,” they added. /atm

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