|DIE HARD III|
|Herman Tiu Laurel|
Meralco files plea for 2013 rate hike,” newspapers announced this week. Former Misamis Oriental Gov. Homobono Adaza and Jojo Borja of Iligan Light and Power updated me on this latest attempt of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to pull a fast one on power consumers. This refers to the case filed against the Maximum Allowable Price (MAP) application of Meralco (Manila Electric Co.) before the ERC by octogenarian accountant and consumer advocate Mang Naro Lualhati — a case that is now filled with several anomalies.
First, the notice for the May 7 ERC hearing arrived anomalously late, at lawyer Adaza’s residence on the Sunday afternoon just before Monday. Thus, Adaza had to call Borja to fly from Bukidnon, where the latter had just alighted, back to Cagayan de Oro and then Manila overnight to catch the next day’s event.
At the ERC hearing, only a “hearing officer” presided. Upon arriving and entering his appearance, Adaza asked the “hearing officer” if he was “the” hearing officer. It turned out that the guy was only a clerk of court. Only after being informed that Adaza was there did the chairman of the ERC, Zenaida Ducut, suddenly decide to appear and preside — a basic legal requirement that has never been met in all past ERC hearings participated in collectively or separately by our advocacy groups.
Since the occasion was being used to formally accept so-called evidence that will buttress Meralco’s MAP petition, it was an evidentiary hearing that, according Adaza, was illegal since Jojo Borja also had a pending petition at the Court of Appeals questioning the continuation of the proceedings until prejudicial questions were resolved.
Adaza and Borja would have missed the ERC hearing, with Meralco already laughing all the way to the bank, if the obviously and deliberately late arrival of the notice wasn’t noted that Sunday. Adaza no longer made an issue of it as he had already averted the scheme. Still, he found the order for the hearing anomalous, as it was merely signed “for the ERC commissioners,” even when the law states that such orders need to be signed by all commissioners — an anomaly regularly committed by the ERC, but this time, protested by Adaza — compelling the entire proceeding to be delayed for another five days.
As such, five million Meralco customers got a reprieve, thanks to Adaza, Borja and Lualhati (who wasn’t able to attend due to physical infirmities).
But trust the ERC to continue frustrating consumer advocates’ questioning and exposés of Meralco’s predatory rate hikes.
Since 2003, Meralco and ERC have been having their way in running rings around, despite roadblocks placed by the Puno Supreme Court and the Commission on Audit. This time, they have finally met the determined team that will stop them.
When BS Aquino III stepped into Malacañang, the power oligarchs’ noose tightened even more around the Supreme Court with the appointment of BS Aquino III’s justices, including Justice Lourdes Sereno who has decided in favor of Meralco in the most crucial issue of rate increases and nitpicks on consumer protectionists.
Meanwhile, on the postponed Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) meet that was supposed to be jointly chaired by Sen. Serge Osmeña and Rep. Dina Abad (who was conveniently out-of-town last April to avoid its convening), there is yet no official word as to when the shelved hearing is to be re-scheduled.
The latest reports from Mindanao say the power crisis there is getting worse. Brownouts are getting longer. The cause is supposedly the rehabilitation work being done at the Agus-Pulangi, which energy officials, particularly Department of Energy Secretary Rene Almendras, left undone for two years of the BS Aquino III government, despite calls from Mindanaoans in 2010 that it was desperately needed.
Clearly, the negligence was deliberate, as the delay of the rehabilitation directly led to the power shortfalls that created the power crisis there this season.
In the wake of Mindanao’s electricity woes, government was compelled to call for a summit and schedule a convening of the JCPC. Amazingly, Mindanaoans were even blamed for this by PeNoy while the JCPC was indefinitely postponed due to a lack of quorum — this, as government losses due to the crisis have already reached P15 billion, with Mindanao’s own economy experiencing losses of up to P60 billion.
The attitude and misdeeds of all those involved in the Philippine energy sector, private power companies and the agents they get appointed to government who are horrendously corrupt and rotten — promoting oligarchs’ interests and their own “golden parachutes” — constitute a clear betrayal of the people.
How these people continue to hold on to their posts can only be explained by the complicity of the top appointing power and the corruption of money-based elections of this country.
In all sectors of the Philippine power elite, such betrayal of duty and rot is evident, as when the Senate cavalierly dismisses the plea to inhibit compromised judges; or when media practitioners irresponsibly report false information; or when police officials get involved in the murder of protected state witnesses, ad nausea.
(Tune in to 1098AM, dwAD, Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m.; watch Destiny Cable GNN’s HTL edition of Talk News TV, Saturdays, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11:15 p.m., this May 12 on “Power, Manila, and Mindanao” with Bono Adaza, Al Tillah and Jojo Borja; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com for our articles plus TV and radio archives)
Source: The Daily Tribune