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Sen. Gatchalian files reso to review ERC mandate amid corruption allegation

Senator Win Gatchalian gestures at a recent 2017 national budget hearing where he told the body that the Committee on Energy, which he chairs, will be probing the allegations of corruption as indicated on a suicide note by a ranking official of the Energy Regulatory Commission. (Photo by Mark Cayabyab)

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Win Gatchalian has filed a resolution calling for an in-depth review of the role of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) within the Philippine energy legal framework amid growing controversy surrounding corruption allegations made against senior ERC officials.

Senate Resolution No. 240, filed on November 22, directs the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the mandate, powers, and functions of the ERC in light of accusations of improper contract awards and other misdealings alleged by the late ERC Director Francisco “Jun” Villa, Jr. in a series of suicide notes found upon his death on November 9.

“Due to its broad quasi-judicial and regulatory functions the ERC can be seen as the Supreme Court of the energy sector, making its integrity as an institution a key consideration for its continued efficacy. In this context, it is imperative to review the legal framework in order to build stronger institutional safeguards which will prevent corruption and impropriety within the system,” said Gatchalian.

In the resolution, Gatchalian stressed the pivotal role of the ERC in the energy legal framework “as the protector and guardian of consumers against monopolization and cartelization”.

Gatchalian also pointed out that corruption within the ERC could breed anti-competitive behavior which would be extremely harmful to the stability of the country’s electricity supply.

“Allowing corrupt practices to continue within a key regulatory body such as the ERC would significantly hamper economic growth and lower the quality of life of our people by throwing the power industry into disarray. This inquiry is the first step toward passing legislation which will bring meaningful change to the energy sector,” said Gatchalian.