House to subpoena ad man in ERC anomaly

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The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability will subpoena Luis Morelos, the owner of advertising agency FatFree Inc. who was implicated in the allegedly anomalous infomercial project that led to the suicide of lawyer Francisco Villa Jr., the former head of the Bids and Awards Committee of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

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“We’ve had two hearings already on the irregularities at the ERC, and Mr. Morelos failed to show up on both occasions, despite our invitations. We will compel him to attend our next hearing,” Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, committee chairman, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Morelos and ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar are already under preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the infomercial project, based on a complaint earlier filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

“We support the complaint filed by the NBI before the Ombudsman. The action appears warranted, so we are all for it,” Pimentel said.

Despite apparent pressure from some of his colleagues at the House, according to the lawmaker, his panel intends to conduct a third hearing on the “fishy” infomercial project and two other alleged anomalies in Salazar’s office.

Villa, who was also ERC Director for Planning and Information Service, committed suicide on November 9, 2016. He left three letters indicating he was under extreme duress from Salazar to endorse the rigged infomercial project contract with Morelos’ FatFree.

The 54-year-old ERC official shot himself in the head with his .38-caliber revolver inside his house in Parañaque City (Metro Manila). He was the son of the late Ombudsman Francisco Villa Sr.

“My greatest fear in bids and awards committee is the AVP (audio-visual presentation) by Luis Morelos, which the chairman and CEO, Jose Vicente B. Salazar, chose through a rigged selection system. That will be a criminal act,” Villa wrote in one of his suicide notes that were later made public by his sister, veteran journalist Rosario Sofia “Charie” Villa.

Besides the infomercial project, Pimentel’s panel also uncovered two other alleged irregularities in Salazar’s office that involved the performance of crooked contracts in violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Government Procurement Act.

The panel said Salazar, an appointee of then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd, ordered the renovation of the ERC chairman’s conference room and obtained new pest control services for the commission, both without competitive public bidding.

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