Candidates for ERC chairman bared

By Myrna M. Velasco – October 25, 2017, 10:00 PM

from Manila Bulletin

The most-coveted position for many “politically connected individuals” in the legal profession appears to be that of the chairmanship of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) with several names already swamping the list of prospective candidates.

According to industry sources, the names being floated include former Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, bar topnotcher and former Ateneo Law Professor Michelle Ann U. Juan; and former Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Davao City Chapter President Ed Batacan.

Other names being tipped off as potential takers of the ERC chairmanship had been National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) President Melvin A. Matibag; and Department of Energy Undersecretary Benito L. Ranque.

Devanadera served as chief of the justice department during the Arroyo administration and has also been reported previously to have been tapped for the top post of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation, but she declined it.

Nevertheless, it was gathered from industry sources that Devanadera’s engagement as legal consultant of a conglomerate with business interests in the energy sector might eventually come up as a stumbling block if ever considered by the Palace for the ERC post.

Juan is considerably not known in the energy business circle, but she had her share of the ‘national spotlight’ because of her involvement in a plagiarism case in at least two Supreme Court decisions; and for being the counsel of actor Aga Muhlach in an electoral protest.

Meanwhile, Batacan may be able to bank on his political links with the current administration. He was reportedly part of the Alyansang Duterte at Bongbong (ALDAB), a political alliance that helped propel the sitting President to power.

Other than the names that already surfaced, industry watchers and sources indicated that it might be better for the Duterte administration to widen its search first and also consider the knowledge and industry background of the incoming ERC Chair, as it would always be a long and tough learning curve for outsiders being shoved into the job.

Malacanang reportedly started its hunt for the next ERC chairman following its enforcement of dismissal against Jose Vicente B. Salazar – of whose seven-year term had been cut short by the Palace ruling.

However, it was indicated that Salazar may seek reprieve in the Courts and if he would score victory in the end, the legal validity of tenure of the ERC Chairman that will be installed by this administration may eventually be questioned.

Under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), the ERC Chairman has a fixed seven-year term and Salazar’s reign will supposedly lapse August 2022 yet.