Groups Decry corruption in CA Overturn of ERC Commissioner’s Suspension

A coalition of household electricity consumers, people’s and environmental groups, faith-based groups, and electricity cooperatives slammed the Court of Appeals’ issue of a permanent injunction against the Ombudsman’s order of suspension of four ERC Commissioners alleged to be in collusion with Meralco and its affiliate coal-sourced electricity generation companies.

“For the second time, and to the grave detriment of public interest, the Court of Appeals has turned a blind eye to the rampant corruption being committed in the ERC,” said Power for People Coalition Convenor and Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa.

“In spite of well-established facts illuminating the favors given by key ERC officials to Meralco and its sister energy companies, the Court of Appeals halted these commissioners’ rightful suspension and now has allowed them to return to their posts untouched,” continued Pedrosa.

“Moreover, this permanent injunction by the Court of Appeals is an injunction against the cheaper, cleaner, and safer energy sources. The CA has sealed electricity consumers’ fate to costly, dirty, and deadly energy,” he said.

The Power for People (P4P) Coalition cited the graft charges filed by a number of petitioners in the Ombudsman against Commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Magpale-Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana for their act of exempting the Power Supply Agreements submitted by Meralco and other major energy companies from the coverage of the Competitive Selection Process, a legally required process which seeks to ensure that electricity consumers are given the cheapest, most competitive source of electricity.

P4P Coalition Convenor Erwin Puhawan of Freedom from Debt Coalition also slammed the judicial body for “normalizing the culture of corruption within the Energy Regulatory Commission.”

“The Court of Appeals keeps protecting these commissioners from the legal repercussions of their collusion with private companies — all under the guise of preserving the stability of ERC’s operations,” Puhawan said.

“But it is clear as day that the ERC has long been operating on corruption, and it is high time that the Commission is made to answer for its repeated violation of its public mandate. Otherwise, the public is doomed to suffer through dirtier and costlier electricity alongside the rising prices of other goods,” he continued.

According to Cris Palabay from Save the Beauty of La Union, the contested Power Supply Agreements irregularly accommodated by the ERC all compel the generation of electricity from coal, an energy source known for being detrimental to the environment and to the health of coal-hosting communities.

“The Court of Appeals and the ERC are effectively allowing for the continuation of these coal companies’ destruction of our communities,” said Palabay whose group, Save the Beauty of La Union, is currently resisting the efforts of Global Luzon Energy Development Corp. (one of the questionable PSAs) to build two 335-MW coal-fired power generating facility in Brgy. Luna, La Union.

Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) Legal and Policy Officer Atty. Avril De Torres also called out the coal industry’s continuing influence over key agencies in the government, which in turn hinders the entrance and development of cleaner and cheaper alternative, renewable energy sources in the Philippine market

“At present, the cost of solar and wind are drastically decreasing, with recently the cost of wind at P3.50/kwh already leagues away from the present cost of coal. This is notwithstanding the current cost of solar which is at P2.99/kwh,” stated De Torres.

“The cost of RE is projected to decrease even more in the coming years. If the ERC, with the help of the CA, goes on to greenlight the contested PSAs entered into by Meralco, they will be stealing at least 20 years of cleaner, more affordable energy from Filipino communities and electricity consumers,” she continued.

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice National Coordinator Ian Rivera expressed alarm at what he called the administration’s “repeated failure” to address corruption, an inaction that largely benefits corporations while exposing the public at large to burdens of costlier goods, and damaged communities and environment.

“The solution following the complaints against the ERC Commissioners has been very straightforward: to remove the accused commissioners from their posts and to immediately replace them in the continuation of ERC operations,” said Rivera.

“Instead, gross inaction on the part of the administration has culminated to a resumption of posts by these highly contested commissioners who are now in the position to approve the Power Supply Agreements that greatly prejudice public interest,” he continued.

“This incompetence in addressing corruption is a betrayal of the entire administration’s promise to uphold an accountable government,” he concluded.

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