Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairman Zenaida Ducut and other members of the ERC should resign for their “hasty and unjust” approval of the recent Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) power rate hike, a lawmaker said on Friday.
Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party list said that the ERC could have reviewed the rate hike, which was recently stopped by the Supreme Court (SC) through a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO), for an ample amount of time.
“The Supreme Court’s two-month TRO only shows that paying the incredibly high generation charge could have been held in abeyance by the ERC for at least two months while it investigates the veracity of Meralco’s claimed increase,” Colmenares said.
“ERC’s hasty approval of the rate increase in only one working day shows its utter lack of concern for the public’s interest and a violation of its mandate under the law to protect consumers,” he added.
Colmenares also said that the ERC failed to consider the impact of the rate increase on the economy on a larger scale, particularly its effect on the basic commodities that are produced and manufactured in Metro Manila but are sold nationwide.
“They cannot be allowed to escape accountability for this and must not stay in office a day longer. They must tender their irrevocable resignation,” the senior deputy minority leader said.
Ducut is a former lawmaker of the 2nd District of Pampanga province, which is now represented by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She currently faces malversation and bribery complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, along with resigned Customs Chief Ruffy Biazon.
She was also named by Benhur Luy, one of the whistleblowers in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, as the broker between some lawmakers and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Numerous lawmakers, including House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., have called for her resignation or leave of absence from her post following the controversy.
Meanwhile, Colmenares also explained that the said increase caused “so much confusion and injury” to consumers, particularly on the charges on their December billings. He said that because of the TRO, Meralco should refund the payments made covered by the increase and should not implement disconnection of service this month.
“Consumers who have paid their December billing must now demand that Meralco refund them for their payments. Consumers who have not paid their December billing must wait for a letter from Meralco clarifying how much of their December bill need not be paid due to the TRO,” Colmenares said. JHOANNA BALLARAN