Senate Energy Committee Chairman Win Gatchalian on Friday urges Malacanang to appoint Acting Commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) during the period of suspension of four of its current Commissions who were found guilty of not implementing the Competitive Selection Process (CSP) which unduly favored some electric utilities.
“The vacuum of leadership in ERC could result to a standstill in the operations of the collegial body. This will in turn have an effect on our future power supply, resulting to the possibility of blackouts. In this light, I’m urging Malacanang to appoint Acting Commissioners to perform the duties of the suspended Commissioners as soon as possible,” he said.
The ERC is the electric power industry regulator composed of 4 Commissioners and 1 Chairperson. The collegial body requires the presence of 3 members in order to issue orders, decisions, and resolutions. In this situation, according to Gatchalian, the absence of 4 of its members leaves the body “powerless in making decisions critical to the energy sector”. Its chair Agnes Devanadera was appointed just this November and will serve the unexpired term of Jose Vicente Salazar until July 2022.
According to the Executive Order No. 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987, the President has the power to temporarily designate a competent person or any official currently in active government service to perform the functions of an official working in the Executive branch who is unable to perform his duties. In which case, the President’s temporary designation should not exceed a period of one year.
Similarly, the Supreme Court in a 2011 case, General v. Urro, ruled that President has the power to make acting or temporary appointments as long as he is not prohibited by the Constitution or by the law in order to prevent a hiatus in the discharge of official functions.
“We want to ensure that ERC would continue its service despite the suspension ordered on most of its Commissioners. At present, the total value of all pending applications for ERC approval is 1.5-trillion pesos,” the lawmaker said.
On December 11, Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Alfredo Non, Josefina Patricia Magpala-Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana were administratively held liable for the conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service, aggravated by simple misconduct and simple neglect of duty.
This stemmed from a complaint filed by members of Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas on November 2016 that questioned the deferment of CSPs in early 2016 and for granting seven (7) Power Supply Agreements (PSA) of Manila Electric Company, despite the period of suspension of the CSPs.
The four Commissioners shall serve the suspension of one-year without pay.