Aquino urged to remove ERC chair

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

MANILA -- Two lawmakers formally asked President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday to remove Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson Zenaida Ducut for failing to protect the interest of power consumers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Akbayan Representatives Walden Bello and Barry Gutierrez said Ducut is guilty of gross neglect of duty and negligence when the ERC approved the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate increase last December 9 without consulting the public.

The power distributor, however, cannot yet implement the increase because of a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court (SC) a month ago.

Ducut also allegedly committed gross neglect of duty when she backed Meralco’s power supply agreements (PSAs) with the generation companies even though these firms did not provide for replacement power in the event of scheduled or forced outages of their power plants.

Meralco earlier said tight supply due to the simultaneous shutdown of power plants including the Malampaya gas facility off Palawan forced them to source more expensive power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

“This is a clear evidence of negligence that violates one of the fundamental policies embodied in the Epira (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) to ensure the quality, reliability, security and affordability of the supply of electric power,” said Bello.

The lawmakers said the President has the authority to investigate, hear, and decide complaints of gross neglect of duty filed against presidential appointees under his supervision and control.

“Possessing the authority to discipline his appointees, the President also possesses the corollary authority to investigate such appointees and look into their conduct in office,” the complaint read, which is now pending before the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs (DESLA).

Gross neglect of duty is punishable by dismissal from the service under Section 46 of the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Services.

Ducut was a congressional representative of Pampanga’s second district from 1995 to 2004. She was appointed ERC chair in 2008 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who now represents the district.

Last year, Ducut was charged with malversation in the second set of cases filed in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

She allegedly received kickbacks for brokering the deal between businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and the lawmakers who channeled their PDAF to the businesswoman’s fake non-government organizations (NGOs).

Ducut’s term will end in 2015. (Sunnex)

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