Duterte orders impartiality in ERC corruption, suicide probe

by Genalyn D. Kabiling and Ellson A. Quismorio – November 21, 2016, 12:09 AM

from Manila Bulletin

President Duterte has ordered a swift and impartial investigation into the alleged corruption in the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), following the suicide of one of its officials complaining about irregularities.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar assured the government seeks to hold accountable those involved in any corrupt practice regardless of their power or influence.

“PRRD has ordered the immediate investigation of the ERC,” Andanar said in a text message to reporters. “There will be no sacred cows,” he added.

Andanar, however, said it was unclear which government body would conduct a probe into the ERC, which is a quasi-judicial regulatory body created to ensure consumer protection and promote competitive operations in the power market.

Francisco Jose Villa Jr., a director of the ERC, committed suicide at his house in Parañaque City last November 9, after supposedly being forced to approve procurement contracts with proper bidding.

The 54-year-old Villa, in his suicide note, reportedly talked about the pressure he got from ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar to rig biddings and favor his boss’ preferred firms.

Reacting to the incident, Salazar expressed disappointment with the allegations but refrained from putting motive in deference to the mourning period of the bereaved family of Villa.

Bagong Henerasyon Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy yesterday called on the President to place key officials of the ERC under preventive suspension even as investigators look into the controversial suicide of Villa.

Herrera-Dy said those who should be put in the freezer pending the probe results were the officials implicated in alleged acts of corruption by the suicide.

“Director Villa’s death has serious and far reaching implications on many ERC deals, including power supply negotiations. He even sacrified his own life to expose these corrupt activities, we cannot ignore it,” stressed the lady solon, who is House Assistant Majority Leader.

Herrera-Dy noted that various consumers protection groups have all batted for investigation into the web of corruption behind the ERC deals, adding that Villa’s death had opened a can of worms that could lead probers in uncovering the reasons for the unfair and unconscionable ERC contracts.

“These highly questionable deals could have included power deals,” she said.