• Subpoena awaits perennial absentee Ducut

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    A subpoena will be issued to embattled Chairman Zenaida Ducut of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) if she fails to attend the next House probe on power issues, a House leader said Monday.

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

    “We will issue an invitation asking for Chairperson 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 is one of the handful of former and incumbent government officials who have been charged with graft-related charges such as plunder, malversation of public funds, among others, over the P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam that allegedly benefited bogus non-state entities owned by Janet Napoles.

    In addition, Ducut was appointed to her present post by former President Gloria Arroyo.

    The House Energy panel has already conducted two hearings on the abovementioned power issues. Ducut was absent in both of these hearings, sending ERC Commissioner Josefina Asirit and Executive Director Francisco Juan instead.

    ERC was the one body that allowed Meralco to impose the P4.15 kilowatt per hour hike, the highest in Philippine history.

    In skipping the past two House Energy panel hearings, Ducut cited that she had to attend to matters that need immediate ERC action.

    Umali, however, argued that her presence in the House Energy panel is just as important.

    “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 stressed. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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