ERC officials told to make way for graft probe

by Alena Mae S. Flores – December 02, 2016 at 11:50 pm

from Manila Standard Today

ENERGY Secretary Alfonso Cusi on Friday advised the five commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission to take a leave of absence while the case of an employee who committed suicide is ongoing.

“That is the prudent thing to do to give way to an independent investigation,” Cusi said.

“We have already asked the NBI to investigate, and I believe an investigation is ongoing.”

ERC director Francisco Villa Jr. killed himself on November 9 and left behind a suicide note alleging corruption in the agency.

Cusi said he had yet to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss the suicide’s case, but he stressed that Duterte was very much against corruption.

He said there should be a legal basis for abolishing the ERC as demanded by Duterte after its commissioners refused to resign over the case.

Cusi said the ERC was created under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, but a replacement body should be created if it was abolished.

“There are a lot of factors that have to be considered. Investors, generators, the public. There have been delays simply because of the probe,” Cusi said.

“A lot of approvals are necessary for the projects to proceed.”

ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar has previously described the corruption issues being raised by various camps against his agency as “opportunism.”

“I lament the apparent attempt on the part of some unscrupulous parties to piggyback on the unfortunate and untimely demise of our colleague, the late Director Jun Villa. This is grossly unfair to him and to his memory,” Salazar said.

He said the insinuation that Villa’s death might  have been precipitated by midnight deals  “smacks of opportunism and a blatant attempt to ride on the death of our colleague to advance a parochial agenda.” Alena Mae S. Flores

Salazar said Villa was not and had never been involved in the evaluation of applications for permits and approvals of power supply agreements between distribution utilities or electric cooperatives and generation companies.