Malacañang is investigating five Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) officials over their alleged lavish trips abroad.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella was referring to ERC commissioners Alfredo Non, Josefina Magpale-Asirit, Gloria Yap-Taruc, Geronimo Santa Ana and Debora Anastacia Layugan who are being accused of serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and violation of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials.
The accusers of the ERC officials include Rodolfo Javellana, president of the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters, and Cipriano D.C. Cabrera.
“The matter pertaining to extravagant trips allegedly made by ERC officials, being presidential appointees, is still under investigation by the Office of the Executive Secretary,” Abella said in a statement.
The Palace had sent a letter to the ERC officials asking to rebut the allegations made by Javellana and Cabrera last August 18.
“The office received a letter dated June 30, 2017 of Mr. Rodolfo Javellana and the complaint dated June 22, 2017, with attachments. It is alleged that you are receiving money and benefits from private entities regulated by the ERC to fund your extravagant travels abroad. In view of the foregoing, this Office requests your comments on the attached documents within 10 days from receipt thereof,” Ryan Alvin Acosta, acting deputy executive secretary for legal affairs under the Office of the President, said in his letter then.
The five ERC officials are already facing graft, indirect-bribery and technical-malversation complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly receiving at least P15 million for their travel expenses abroad from 2009 to 2015.
Lawyer Jose Aaron Pedrosa Jr., who also serves as Sanlakas secretary general, and Freedom from Debt Coalition secretary general Samuel Cesar Gamboa filed the complaint before the Ombudsman last July.
The complainants alleged that the ERC officials received travel expenses from the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation, which is in charge of the Wholesale Electric Spot Market, provider of basic rules, requirements and procedures that govern the operation of the Philippine wholesale electricity spot market.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier called for the abolition of the ERC because of corruption in the light of the suicide of former ERC Director Francisco “Jun” Villa Jr.
Villa took his own life in November 2016 amid escalating pressure to approve P400-million worth of procurement contracts for a certain Jose Morelos without public bidding.
Congressional inquiries into Villa’s suicide revealed that ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar did not want to investigate the circumstances leading to the suicide of Villa.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte has filed House Bill 5020 seeking the abolition of the ERC.