• House to subpoena ERC chief on power rate hike

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    THE House of Representatives will subpoena Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairman Zenaida Ducut if she fails to attend the next inquiry on power issues, a House leader said on Monday.

    Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro, chairman of the House Committee on Energy, made the threat after Rep. Antonio Tinio of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers questioned the continued absence of Ducut in the ongoing House investigation on the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) power rate hike and the restoration of electricity in Yolanda-hit areas.

    “We will issue an invitation asking for Chairman Ducut’s presence in our next hearing next year indicating that her personal presence will be required. If she fails to attend for the third time, then we will issue a subpoena. She needs to recognize the authority of the House,” Umali told reporters.

    Ducut was absent in the past House hearings. She sent ERC Commissioner Josefina Asirit and Executive Director Francisco Juan instead.

    “Her presence here [in the House Committee]is very important because ERC is a regulatory body [of power rates]. These increases are passed on to consumers, so it is very important that she gives attention to these,” Umali said.

    Meanwhile, Sen. Antonio Trillanes said it is possible that Ducut may also be involved in the collusion among power producers that resulted in the increase of power rates.

    “Her [Ducut] involvement in the pork barrel scam shows likelihood that there is collusion,” Trillanes told reporters.

    Ducut, based on the testimony made by pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy, is said to be close to controversial businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and allegedly received commission from the later.

    The senator maintained that the ERC failed to protect consumers and even acted as lawyer for power producers and justified the increase.

    The Senate committee on energy is set to conduct a separate probe into the power rate hike.

    Llanesca Panti And Jefferson Antiporda

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