By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
MALACAÑANG said it will execute today, July 6, an order in line with the Office of the Ombudsman’s suspension of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) commissioners Josefina Patricia M. Asirit, Alfredo S. Non, Geronimo D. Sta. Ana, and Gloria Victoria C. Yap-Taruc.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a text message when sought for comment: “OP (Office of the President) will execute suspension tomorrow.”
Mr. Roque said he “got (the) confirmation” from the office of Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea.
In his press briefing on Thursday morning, Mr. Roque said, “Well, if there is no TRO (temporary restraining order) against the second suspension, I think some of them are lawyers, they know that is usurpation of authority.”
“At least they should know that there is a crime possibly being committed by them,” he added.
In its 14-page decision dated May 18, the Ombudsman ordered the ERC commissioners suspended for three months after they were found “guilty of simple neglect of duty.”
Sought for comment, Rolando B. Faller, legal counsel of the commissioners, said the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) has not issued a directive to implement the suspension order.
“While there is no TRO issued by the CA, there is also no directive from the Office of ES Medialdea to implement the suspension order,” Mr. Faller said Thursday afternoon.
He added: “The four commissioners will stand ready to comply with the directive if one is issued and served upon them. If they will abandon their office, then, that constitutes abandonment of office, which is a crime. The Decision of the OMB is clear that the implementation of the suspension is coursed through the OP (Office of the President).”
When sought for comment, Mr. Roque said: “Preliminarily, of course, defense counsel will say that! There can’t be abandonment when there’s a legal suspension order! Is it stated in the Order that OP should enforce?”
The Ombudsman’s decision came after consumer advocacy group National Association of Electricity Consumers of Reforms, Inc. (Nasecore), represented by its Executive Director Rafael Antonio M. Acebedo, filed a complaint of grave misconduct against the ERC commissioners on Dec. 13, 2017.
The case, according to the decision, “stemmed from the alleged unauthorized use by Meralco of the bill deposits of consumers, and the unjust/discriminatory fixing of interest rates thereon, as well as the non-crediting thereof in favor of the consumers.”
In a statement issued last month, Nasecore said that it was “the second time the Ombudsman has ordered the suspension of the same ERC Commissioners, the first was in December of last year ‘for conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service aggravated by simple misconduct and simple neglect of duty’ for allegedly excluding [Meralco] and other firms from a competitive selection process (CSP) meant to ‘elicit the best price’ for consumers.” — with Victor V. Saulon