• ERC chief suspended for insubordination

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    Malacañang has suspended Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar for four months for insubordination.

    In a news conference, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said the Office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea decided on Wednesday to suspend Salazar after he defied a Malacañang order.

    “As of this time, the Office of the Executive Secretary, in his decision dated August 2, 2017, finds Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman and CEO Jose Vicente Salazar guilty of insubordination,” Banaag told reporters.

    “Thus, Mr. Salazar is meted out the penalty of suspension for a period of four months without pay. So that’s insofar as Commissioner Jose Vicente Salazar is concerned,” she said.

    President Rodrigo Duterte asked Salazar and other ERC officials to resign last year after ERC Director Francisco Villa Jr. committed suicide, citing pressure from other ERC officials to approve allegedly corrupt deals.

    In May, Malacañang placed Salazar under a three-month preventive suspension amid pending administrative charges against him.

    The suspension stemmed from a complaint against Salazar that he deceived Malacañang in filing his travel authority and designating somebody without proper authority as officer-in-charge while he was abroad.

    The document, which was signed by Medialdea on May 2, revealed that Salazar is facing “serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct” on account of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

    Banaag said the new suspension order has been imposed on Salazar after he designated Ronaldo Gomez as ERC’s officer-in-charge and executive director even after Malacañang assigned Commissioner Geronimo Santa Ana as OIC during his absence.

    “There was a time the Office of the Executive Secretary endorsed or appointed [as]OIC Mr. Santa Ana. And then after that, Commissioner Salazar appointed [Mr.] Gomez for his leave of absence. So this is the insubordination part,” she explained.

    “So the Office of the President has jurisdiction over Mr. Salazar and for his disobedience for insubordination, for not obeying the appointment, the previous appointment released or given by the Office of the Executive Secretary to OIC Santa Ana [and]for appointing another person as OIC,” Banaag said.

    She added that other administrative charges were filed against Salazar but details are not available yet as such charges are still under investigation.

    “For investigations, of course, we cannot divulge… so as not to preempt [whatever would happen]. But then, for the insubordination part, the issue that was decided upon [was that Mr. Salazar should be penalized],” Banaag said.

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