After Napoles, lofty-sounding NGOs should ring alarm bells

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IF there was a common thread that bound the Napoles NGOs, that was their grand names, names that were drawn from the loftiest adjectives in the Pilipino language. It was always “masagana” or “ ginintuan” or words that invoked, nobility of purpose. That such lofty names would be used as fronts for the worst legislative scandal in our history—a scam that wasted more than P10 billion in public funds—has triggered the inevitable:  public wariness over similarly-named NGOs.

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So when an NGO named Matuwid na Singil sa Kuryente Consumer Alliance (MSK) was made part of a high-level joint study group created by the Department of Energy to study the critical issues of power pricing and power supply, red flags were naturally raised. And legitimate questions were asked.

Is MSK a genuine crusader for consumer rights ? Or, harking back to the tragic experience with the Napoles fronts, is it an NGO that we should be wary of?

Let the records of the MSK, provided in detail by a correspondent of this column, speak for itself.

The first thing that raised the alarm bells about the MSK was not really very serious, the conflicting addresses. Its filings before the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) listed its address as Libis, Binangonan, Rizal while its official website has this address: 910 Tekkite West Tower, Exchange Road at the Ortigas district. This is a minor error and it takes place in the corporate world – though not very often.

But other revelations about the MSK are very disturbing, to say the least. The inconsistency in the address was just a dress rehearsal to bigger, murkier revelations.

On the surface, the MSK has its regulatory filings in order. It claimed that it held its annual meeting in April this year in fulfillment of a requirement that NGOs cannot lay dormant and stay inactive. That claim, however, was debunked by the certified statements made by two key officers of the NGO, the treasurer and the corporate secretary, who both testified that the MSK has been dormant since its incorporation in 2011. Lorna Asilo, MSK’s corporate secretary, signed an Affidavit of Non-Operation on April 8, 2013.

Videt Cusi, the treasurer, signed her own Affidavit of Non-Operation on May 23, 2013. Asilo provided the additional information that the MSK has assets worth less than P500,000 and annual gross receipts of less than P100, 000.

Susmaryosep. How did the MSK, dormant since its 2011 inception, get recognition as a true voice of electric consumers, and – on top of that – get a seat in the elite study group that would study in-depth power supply and prices? Have we not learned a lesson from the lofty-sounding NGOs that vacuumed more than P10 billion in pork barrel allocations? Have we not learned a thing from the lofty-sounding NGOs of Janet Napoles?

We now go to the more serious questions about the MSK, its leadership in particular. Who founded MSK and who are its key officers other than the two who testified under oath that MSK has been dormant and inoperative. Who is its president? The answers would trigger red flags all around.

The president of MSK is David Relito Tan. He is said to be a certified public accountant with expertise on power issues. He has written commentaries on power pricing and supply and used to head a group called Philippine Independent Power Producers Association. On the surface, he is an articulate voice for the burdened electricity consumers.

If you go deep into background checking, the credibility of Mr. Tan readily evaporates. It would probably force Mr. Petilla to do some elementary fact-checking on the people who would sit with him in that joint study group.

Let us start with the least controversial item about Mr. Tan. In June of 2010, nine employees retrenched from his Power One Group got their separation pay, thanks to a ruling from the 7th division of the Court of Appeals. The nine workers charged Power One with illegal dismissal and the CA ordered a money award. Fair is fair, that happens everyday in the corporate world.

We now go to the serious issues about Mr. Tan.

In September of 1998, the San Francisco Superior Court ordered Mr. Tan and his company Edison-Hubbard Corp., to settle a $6.9 million bad loan with the Philippine National Bank. That also meant assigning Tan’s disclosed assets to PNB – until the full payment of the bad loan.

Assigned to the PNB were Tan’s disclosed assets in five corporations, Edison-Hubbard among them, where he was either officer or director. That, however, was not the end of the story.

Mr. Tan, it turned out, had assets in 12 corporations instead of five.

He just has not disclosed the assets in the seven others. For that he was heavily censured by another court, a bankruptcy court, which said that “ Debtor Tan intended to defraud his creditors.”

At the  Second Division of the Supreme Court, there is a civil case filed against Tan’s Power One Corp. The complainant is another power company and the case was over a soured supply deal. A Mindoro-based electric cooperative has another complaint against Tan’s Power One, this time filed with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). Again, the complaint was based on a soured supply deal.

Question for Mr. Petilla. Will you still want to sit next to this guy with a history of soured loans and soured deals ? And who heads a NGO that sounds like a Napoles creation?

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6 Comments

  1. Juts focus on the real issue and that is Meralco is really giving us electric consumers a hard-time on our bills! There’s a person and an organization mightily standing up not just for him but for majority of the Filipino people, and we should be glad that a voice is starting to echo.

    A tree will not be thrown at if it’s not bearing fruits. From the looks of it, Mr. Tan and his MSK group might be starting to create a buzz – that’s why black propagandas are circulating against him and his alliance.

    If we are to look at past write-ups not only of Mr. Ronquillo but also of a Philippine Star and Malaya columnist – you can see that the personality, credibility, and reputation of Mr. Tan is clearly being put into a weakening.

    Ms. Aya, Philippine Power Insights contains a lot of great thoughts that should be well-read by the public. Sa mga Meralco consumers na matagal nang nagtitiis sa mataas na singil, take a look at what are written there.

    Again, focus on the issue – regarding of what’s really causing consumers in the Meralco franchise area their high power rates – there’s really something wrong and it must be corrected.

    Mga Pinoy, panlima tayo sa buong mundo na may pinakamataas na singil sa kuryente. Kahilera natin ang mayayamang bansa sa Europa gaya ng Germany at Italy. Sabagay, mayaman naman talaga tayo – sa mga corruptive tactics, envelopmental journalism (as per Ms. Aya) and sa kung anu-ano pang mga kabulastugan at kabulukan.

    Sa mga namumuna ng mga nakaraang pagkakamali ng isang tao, sana wala silang pagkakamali na maaari ring malantad sa ibang pagkakataon!

  2. We can only hope that now that Mr. Petilla is under the public microscope, he will be more circumspect, though given his past performance, he may well fumble ‘in good faith’. I think Murphy said something about the more pretentious an organization’s name is, the less effective it is. The best move would be for Mr. Petilla to resign.

    • Manang Dolor on

      “In Good Faith”: did they also say this when they included MSK in the new group to monitor our power pricing and supply? when will our government learn to stop trusting those with dirty track records? And at the end of this, they’ll blame each other.

  3. After PDAF and DAP were declared unconstitutional by SC because they were found stealing the taxpayers money for their personal enrichment and now they will use NGO as another source of their personal piggybank to support their personal lifestyle Imagine a neophyte Senator Grace Poe from her interview is interpreting the SC ruling that DAP need not be returned if it was for good purpose and. even agreed with what Belmonte and Coloma said. DAP funds were supposedly be used to fix several dilapidated airports like NAIA etc. many other vital infrastructures to create jobs for many unemployed Filipinos instead this administration suspended the approved projects claim it as savings but it was used as bribe to Senators and Representative giving additional 50 million each when several Senators(except Marcos,Santiago and Joker Arroyo) voted to impeach the sitting CJ Renato Corona as disclosed by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. and was earlier reported by Abad himself.And with Benhur Luy disclosure of the PDAF scam , this administration attempted to shied and even muddled the lists of those who had participated to discredit the name of would be Presidential contender for 2016. No one is above the law and they should all be penalized for what they caused the poverty of many.

  4. The electricity consumers in our country are at the mercy of these so called cooperatives & companies.More than half of the electricity bills are add on’s. Even in Lubao Pampanga which is supposed to be a cooperative but their office is in Mabalacat.This I found out when I was trying to apply for a senior discount, but my trip to Mabalacat was a complete waste of time as I was told that the senior discount is really only for “poor seniors”. The provincial govt should eliminate these businesses masquerading as cooperatives.They should utilize the rivers/creeks for small power generation & also encourage the under utilized sugar mills to be used as cogenerators (incenerators of waste) even from greater Manila & nearby provinces.This will lower the cost of electricity & also create plentiful jobs in our province.Calling the attention of Gov. Lilia Pineda.

    • aya jallorina on

      I am saddened to read a columnist (Marlen Ronquillo) spewing judgments against Mr. David Tan based on a PR fed to him by God-knows-who and for how much? I’ve heard a lot about envelopmental journalism,tsk tsk!. Mr. Ronquillo, you might want to google Philippine Power Insights para naman maliwanagan ka. God bless your angry soul.