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ERC-Meralco-llusions? DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 09/23/2011

Friday, September 23, 2011


Herman Tiu Laurel
While the country was in suspense over the turnout of the much-awaited public transport strike in the morning of Monday, Sept. 19, a dozen power consumer-crusaders trooped to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to oppose the latest Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) petition for its Maximum Average Price (MAP) of P1.5828/kWh for the Regulatory Year 2012.

The opposition is based on several issues: 1) the findings of Mang Naro Lualhati, our 90-year-old champion who helped us win the P30.5-billion Meralco refund in 2003, that the MAP should only be P0.9039 per kWh due to P46 billion in excess capital expenditure claimed by Meralco; 2) power distributor-owner Mr. Uriel Borja’s charges of massive overpricing in Meralco’s Rate Asset Base (RAB), such as the 500-percent overprice in its transformers, the 3,000-percent overprice in its electric poles, etc.; and 3) the prior cases yet unresolved by the ERC that are prejudicial to that MAP hearing.

Dutifully, the “intervenors” (an ERC term for accredited interested parties), led by Mang Naro, Borja, and Nasecore (National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms), arrived at the ERC hearing room on the 15th floor of the Pacific Center Bldg., San Miguel Ave., Ortigas Center at 9 a.m. I was even there earlier at 7:30 a.m. to ensure a warm welcome for citizen-volunteers whom we appealed to join. This has become necessary since the last decision of the Supreme Court (SC), penned by PeNoy-appointed Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, blamed consumers for lacking the vigilance to protect their rights in denying the opposition to Meralco’s P0.29 per kWh rate increase.

Quite a handful responded to my constant appeal over radio. Cesar, a daily wage earner, came; followed by tricycle driver Oyet; and then, Richard, a college student who helps us upload materials to our blog. Ruth, a businesswoman, arrived after getting past the morning traffic; and then we saw our ever reliable civil servant, Ferdie. Much later, we were joined by Joy, a social worker, as well as Poem Gratela, the founder of Migrante.

Mang Naro, Borja and Pete Ilagan of Nasecore, along with their counsel, were already at the hearing room; and as soon as the clock struck nine, strangely, only half the hearing room was lit and the row of benches Meralco lawyers would normally fill were empty.

In a few minutes, we understood why. An ERC lady lawyer walked into the room explaining that the hearing would be held at 2 p.m. But we were sure the ERC had posted 9 a.m. on its Web site, a fact we verified again and again over three weeks. I checked the ERC’s official Web site again that very morning before I sent out my text reminders. It was clear that the hearing was scheduled at 9 a.m. Borja, who had to fly from Mindanao, also checked the ERC schedules without fail.

And while the ERC kept insisting it was always 2 p.m., pointing to its August order, it is undeniable that the change of schedule to 9 a.m. was also officially posted online since three weeks ago.

To make sure I had the evidence, I opened my laptop to take a picture or screen capture of the Web announcement; but lo and behold, it had been changed just that morning while we were waiting at the hearing room. Fortunately, one of the oppositors checked the ERC bulletin board just outside the hearing room; and there we found the evidence that incontrovertibly proves 9 a.m. as the official hearing schedule!

We showed that to the ERC lawyers and demanded a certified true copy of the document. We had to post a guard at the bulletin board for four hours before the agency issued a certified true copy and we allowed it to be taken down. After a brief huddle, the group’s lawyer drafted a motion stating our demand for Meralco to be declared in default and for the cancellation of the 2 p.m. hearing, which all of the oppositors signed and was duly received by the ERC.

The group then mulled its options: In making such a motion, would we be stopped from attending that afternoon hearing, which we were certain ERC would hold despite our protest? If we boycotted that hearing, could they declare us in default as what had happened in the previous controversial ERC and SC decision, where the public lost and Meralco won its unjustified P0.29 per kWh increase?

I called lawyers Bono Adaza and Alan Paguia for advice, and both suggested that we attend the 2 p.m. hearing to demand the dismissal of the Meralco petition for being in default and to declare the afternoon hearing as unacceptable.

But as we decided to push ahead, it also presented a few problems: Everyone had already scheduled other things. Besides, the enervation was really sapping our energies. Mang Naro felt he wanted to go home; so did the others. But it was also too much trouble getting back and forth the very bad traffic in that area.
So we decided to stay on and got some burgers and bottled water for a “camp in” at the hearing room. Borja volunteered to treat everyone and we stayed on. Most of us even took a noontime nap at the hearing room. That was until 2 p.m. when a dozen de-amerikana male and female lawyers of Meralco marched in (were they tipped off not to come at 9 a.m.?), along with an ERC hearing officer (my, those ERC commissioners are never around).

We managed to harangue the said officer to limit the hearing’s function to receiving the documents of Meralco and postponing deliberations on its merits until our demands were officially heard in a subsequent hearing. For sure, it was only a half victory for the day. We will bring the incident to court along with several other cases we are preparing. And so the struggle continues…

(Tune in to Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m. on 1098AM; Talk News TV with HTL, Saturday, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11 p.m., on GNN, Destiny Cable Channel 8 on “ERC-Meralco-llusions?”; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com for our articles plus TV and radio archives)
(Reprinted with permission from Mr. Herman Tiu-Laurel)

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110923com5.html

Who gains from airwave battle EDITORIAL 09/23/2011

Who gains from airwave battle

Click to enlarge
The one who said that air is among the few God-given commodities that remain free should think again.

With the advent of technology, air waves or radio frequencies have become a costly and rare resource.

The current battle, for instance, between the two biggest telecommunications firms, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecom, can be reduced basically to which between them will get the bigger allocations of radio bandwave to support their frenzied plans to expand or accommodate new services.

Thus, Globe is opposing the merger between PLDT and another major mobile phone firm, Digitel, not for anything else but because of the bandwidth advantage it will provide the merged company..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110923com1.html

What gall! FRONTLINE Ninez Cacho-Olivares 09/23/2011

What gall!

Ninez Cacho-Olivares
Honesty, transparency, accountability and reforms are the Noynoy administration’s buzzwords and its justification for committing so many perceived unconstitutional acts.

Just recently, the Solicitor-General filed a motion for reconsideration before the high court, seeking to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) imposed by the Supreme Court (SC) on the postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), but which legislative measure also vests the President with the power to appoint officers in charge (OICs) for the ARMM’s elective seats.

The Solgen stated that in effect, the high court’s TRO stopped the reforms that should have been implemented in the ARMM, through the Noynoy appointed OICs, apart from arguing that the high court had already ruled as unconstitutional holdover positions.

It is as if it is not seen as unconstitutional or irregular that Noynoy is given that power to appoint OICs in place of elected ARMM officials, or the fact that the “holdover” status came to fore, precisely because Noynoy and his boys refused to have the ARMM polls push through.... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110923com2.html

Rabbani killing shows bleak hopes for Afghan peace ANALYSIS 09/23/2011

Rabbani killing shows bleak hopes for Afghan peace


KABUL — The killing of Afghanistan’s chief peace negotiator Burhanuddin Rabbani shows the futility of attempts to start serious talks with the Taliban even after 10 years of war, experts said Wednesday.

A decade after American troops invaded Afghanistan to bring down the Taliban for sheltering Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, the insurgency has seemingly never been stronger and the Afghan government barely ever weaker.

US President Barack Obama poured 50,000 extra troops into the country to deal the Taliban a decisive blow, but violence has only increased and attacks blamed on Taliban-led insurgents have only become bolder.

In just two months President Hamid Karzai has lost three allies — his brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, strongman of the south; advisor Jan Mohammad Khan and now his associate Rabbani — all three assassinated at home..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110923com3.html

Myanmar’s jungle capital stirs to life focus 09/23/2011

Myanmar’s jungle capital stirs to life


NAYPYIDAW — Construction cranes tower over two new football stadiums rising up from the tropical scrubland of Naypyidaw — part of a building boom that is transforming Myanmar’s remote capital.

The military regime surprised the world in 2005 by suddenly shifting the seat of government from Yangon to the new site, when its vast roads were largely deserted and there were still no schools, clinics or grocery stores.

Once off-limits to the general public, the new nominally civilian government is now preparing to showcase the fast-developing “Abode of Kings” to an influx of visitors for the 2013 Southeast Asian Games.

“Before, this area was jungle and forest,” said project director Khin Maung Kywe, looking out at the site of a 30,000-capacity football stadium that will double as a track and field venue..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110923com6.html

‘Leah’ NO HOLDS BARRED Armida Siguion-Reyna 09/23/2011


Armida Siguion-Reyna
You read this early today and perhaps at around 10 a.m. spot me huddled with television production executives in a hotel coffee shop, discussing a role in a TV soap opera. While I’m eager to be working again and grateful to the network bosses who want me for the project, if I were at least 10 years younger, right after the meeting I’d be marching in the streets, supporting “Leah.”

Who is “Leah?”

Here’s a backgrounder, from the Gabriela National Alliance of Women: “In exchange for helping in convent chores, ‘Leah’ became a scholar of Fr. Raul Cabonce, a parish priest of the Diocese of Butuan. ‘Leah,’ like many other young women in our country, had known only a life of poverty and hardship, and imagined stepping out of this deprivation by finishing secondary and college education. But never did she imagine that the person she knew as a servant of God, a person she trusted and with whom her mother worked as a catechist for five years, would become her sexual abuser. Soon after she graduated from high school, ‘Leah’ came out and admitted to enduring a series of sexual molestation and acts of rape since she was 17 years old, while she lived at Fr. Cabonce’s convent..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/commentary/20110923com4.html

Palace scored ignoring Senate plea on MRT, LRT fare hikes By Angie M. Rosales 09/23/2011

Palace scored ignoring Senate plea on MRT, LRT fare hikes

By Angie M. Rosales 09/23/2011

Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. yesterday chastised Malacañang’s defiance in even considering the call of the majority of senators to defer the planned fare increases in the Metro Rail and Light Rail Transit (MRT-LRT) and the impending second adjustment this October 1 in toll of the country’s key expressways.

The Aquino administration, before proceeding with the pronounced moves, must first prove that operations of MRT-LRT under an adjusted fare rate will be running efficiently, he said.

“The current subsidy (in commuters’ fare) I think is just enough. Coming from the private sector, I don’t think we’re running the LRT-MRT efficiently. I’ve managed a private company before and based on experience, if the company is not earning, you devise ways to lower the cost of operations and not automatically increase the prices. Just because you’re not earning enough, you have to jack up prices of your products. You will end up losing your consumers if you do that.

“That should be the mindset of any government corporation in order to run efficiently the operations of the government,” Villar told dwIZ radio during an interview..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110923hed2.html

SC exec cries foul on Noy bid to divert P2-B budget Benjamin B. Pulta, Charlie V. Manalo 09/23/2011


SC exec cries foul on Noy bid to divert P2-B budget

Benjamin B. Pulta, Charlie V. Manalo 09/23/2011

Alarms are being sounded by the high court over the pressure being exerted on Congress for it to pass the 2012 national budget without deleting the portion that calls for the diversion of judiciary hiring funds which will be wholly controlled by Malacanang.

The Supreme Court (SC) is sounding the alarm over the unconstitutional diversion by Malacanang of close to P2 billion in funds originally intended for the judicial department.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Court Administrator and spokesman Jose Midas Marquez underscored that Section 3, Article VIII of the Constitution requires fiscal autonomy for the judiciary.

“The Judiciary shall enjoy fiscal autonomy. Appropriations for the Judiciary may not be reduced by the legislature below the amount appropriated for the previous year, and, after approval, shall be automatically and regularly released,” Marquez said, quoting the provision in the 1987 Constitution..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110923hed1.html

AFP, Reds trade barbs over ceasefire 09/23/2011

AFP, Reds trade barbs over ceasefire

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday accused the communist New People’s Army (NPA) of taking advantage of the unilateral ceasefire declared by the military on Wednesday by abducting and then killing two government troops in Davao City.

At a press briefing, AFP-Public Affairs Office chief Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said that Pfc Ronel Mansiwagan and Cafgu member Ortega Carian were found dead at around 8 p.m. Wednesday in Barangay Upper Mapula in Paquibato District.

Mansiwagan is the deputy commander of the Damilag detachment where Carian is also assigned. Both are members of the Ata Manobo tribe.

“We are saddened that despite our suspension of offensive military operations against the NPA, the rebel group took advantage of the situation and abducted a soldier and a Cafgu,” Burgos said..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20110923nat3.html

RP alert 4 in Libya still on By Michaela P. del Callar 09/23/2011

RP alert 4 in Libya still on

By Michaela P. del Callar 09/23/2011

Manila’s travel ban and order for government-assisted mass evacuation in Libya will remain until the security situation stabilizes, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

There will be no immediate change in the government’s security policy in Libya even as democracy fighters have gained control of the North African state following the collapse of the regime of Libyan strongman Moammar Kadhafi, DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

“It is still alert level 4,” he said, adding that the government will only amend its security assessment and lift the deployment ban “once the security situation has much improved.”

Alert level 4 calls for the mass evacuation of the remaining 2,000, mostly Filipino nurses, in Libya. However, most of the workers there have refused to join government-assisted repatriation to Manila for fear of losing their permanent jobs..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/nation/20110923nat1.html

Gov’t dared to seek refund of excessive water charges By Charlie V. Manalo 09/23/2011

Gov’t dared to seek refund of excessive water charges

By Charlie V. Manalo 09/23/2011

Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy yesterday dared government to initiate the refund to water consumers of payments for excess billing collected for the last 11 years by the two private water concessionaires of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

At the same time, Herrera-Dy called on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to prosecute past and incumbent MWSS officials for conflict of interest arising from “interlocking directors and executive officers” among the concessionaires, the MWSS-Regulator Office and the MWSS.

Also sought to be prosecuted are officials involved in the anomalous conversion into equity in Maynilad Water Services Inc., one of the two concessionaires, of its P8.5-billion debt to the state water firm.

Herrera-Dy revealed that during the congressional inquiry into reported anomalies in the implementation of the concession agreement between government and the Manila Water Co. and Maynilad, it was discovered the two private water firms imposed water rate hikes that are beyond the average tariff they are entitled to..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20110923met1.html

Biazon to cleanse BoC of ‘hao shiao’ mediamen 09/23/2011

Biazon to cleanse BoC of ‘hao shiao’ mediamen

Newly appointed Bureau of Customs (BoC) Commissioner Rozzano “Ruffy” Biazon yesterday said he will definitely “clean up” his agency of “hao shiao” or illegitimate mediamen.

At a press conference at the Department of Justice (DoJ), Biazon said he will coordinate with legitimate media groups for the proper accreditation of mediamen covering the Customs.

Biazon said he found out the so-called “hao shiao” mediamen practically took over the PIO (Public Information Office) of the BoC.

“Mas marami pa sila sa organic personnel ng bureau so we need to put order into that,” Biazon said..... MORE

SourceThe Daily Tribune

URL: http://www.tribuneonline.org/metro/20110923met4.html

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