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The ‘power’ struggle continues DIE HARD III Herman Tiu Laurel 06/08/2012

Friday, June 8, 2012

The ‘power’ struggle continues

Herman Tiu Laurel
Several power struggles are going on. A minor one among the ruling elite just saw the victimized Chief Justice (CJ) yield to the unjust persecution. The other is the power struggle between those upholding the principle of the Rule of Law and the self-serving abusers of that very law among those in power.

Last Tuesday, several crusaders for the Rule of Law went to the Supreme Court (SC) to demand action on the pending petitions before it on the jurisdictional violations that were prejudicial to the CJ’s case as well as to damn all the institutions involved in the travesty of due process in the impeachment exercise.

Today, as you read this, another “power” struggle is being waged by advocates of the Filipino power consumers’ cause at a hearing of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on the 2013 Maximum Average Price (MAP) petition by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) for its distribution charge, which would again raise electricity rates in the coming years. This is just one among a gamut of issues, including the Meralco-National Power Corp. (Napocor) P14-billion settlement predictably granted by the Rizal Regional Trial Court (RTC) as a pass-on cost to consumers, which we will have to put a stop to. But let us first cut through all the crap.

First, the 2013 MAP deliberations are premature since the 2012 MAP hearings still have unresolved issues as raised by Mang Naro Lualhati (our octogenarian hero of the first P30-billion Meralco refund, along with Cefie Padua and others), as well as the 500-percent overpricing of transformers and other costs of Meralco approved by the ERC, as charged by Iligan Light and Power Inc. (ILPI) against the power distributor before the Court of Appeals.

In view of the fact that the ERC just gave its provisional green light for Meralco to implement its 2012 MAP, why on earth is it now hearing the MAP petition for 2013 without first resolving any of the important prejudicial questions?

Lualhati issued this warning (through text): “Ka Mentong, ERC refuses to exclude the P46,015-billion asset base bloating. This means P48-billion overcharge in 2015. They will approve a charge of P2.50 to P3.50 per kWh, instead of P0.90 per kWh, in 2013 as they have done in 2012…”

Today’s hearing will have lawyer Bono Adaza volunteering his legal expertise, in support of Butch Junia, who will be the lead advocate. Several citizen volunteers are also joining, including Lito Villanueva, Boyet Ancheta, and others who texted but didn’t give their names. Needless to say, we would always need volunteers to show one and all that we are vigilant — especially a certain lady justice of the SC who was appointed by the current Palace occupant.

Justice Lourdes Sereno, one of those suspected to be shortlisted by BS Aquino III as the next CJ, in an SC decision favoring Meralco, had the gall to fault us consumer volunteers for “not being vigilant” against the power giant’s rate increase maneuvers when we had already devoted much of our own time and resources to continuously oppose such abuses — as against the ERC’s grant of a P2.2-billion “regulatory liaison budget” for Meralco, at the expense of power consumers, even when the power company merely requested approval for P2.02 billion (or P180 million less).

What “regulatory liaison” means is beyond anybody’s understanding; but it would lead one to believe that it forms part of Meralco’s needs in “dealing” with the ERC. Just what the hell is this for? Could it be what is sometimes called an “intermediation” cost? And why would the ERC be so generous as to increase this on its own? Is this where the two dozen-strong, highly paid Meralco legal team gets its fees?

In contrast, poor consumer protection advocates simply dig into their own pockets and take time out from their work to put in hours upon hours of research and attendance in hearings in order to stop the power fleecing.

Then, we have the P14-billion settlement agreement. For those still not in the know, it concerns the contract obligations to purchase a certain amount of electricity from Napocor that Meralco reneged on when it set up its own independent power producers (IPPs) to purchase power from these sister firms. Yet, despite losing the case, Meralco has repeatedly petitioned to pass on this penalty to its customers.

Luckily for consumer groups, this was one of the issues that former Solicitor-General Jose Anselmo Cadiz fought hard against. But, as we now know, a few months after Cadiz’s sudden and inexplicable resignation in February, the decision of the Rizal RTC came out, leaving it to the ERC to decide whether the P14-billion penalty will be shouldered by Meralco’s customers.

Surprisingly, the replacement for Cadiz was SolGen Francis Jardeleza, who was formerly a general counsel to a major conglomerate that’s now among the owners of Meralco. Is it any wonder why consumers lost the case under this new SolGen?

And, given the ERC’s unbroken record of favoring Meralco, will its decision on the huge pass-on financial obligation be much of a surprise?

Fortunately, Jojo Borja of ILPI called us with some good news: engineer David Tauli, former senior vice president of Cepalco (Cagayan Electric Power and Light Co.), is now joining the crusade against the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) — the mother of all these power evils.

Frustrated with the results of the Epira and the years of energy woes Mindanao has faced because of it, particularly the crises of the last two years which peaked in the first quarter of 2012 when the whole of Mindanao was literally up in arms against the lies of Manila’s power authorities (e.g., Sen. Serge Osmeña and Energy Chief Rene Almendras), Tauli has become one of those very vocal about such suspicious power crises.

We would thus have to rouse more people like him into action as we continue on in this fight.
(Tune in to 1098AM, dwAD, Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday-Wednesday-Friday [change of sched], 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. on “The Power Struggle Continues” with Jojo Borja and Butch Junia; 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/20120608com6.html


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