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.
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?