Injury to the public

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THE four Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) commissioners were suspended by the Ombudsman for one year not for flimsy reasons. They were suspended for allegedly allowing Meralco to delay for one month the refund of P6.9 billion to customers whom it overcharged, resulting in the utility firm earning P14 million in interest from their loot. The government wanted to stop them from using their positions to give benefits to power firms instead of to the public.

However, with the Court of Appeals’ issuance of a 60-day temporary restraining order against the suspension that reinstates the commissioners to their posts, the public stands to be injured once more. Why? Because the commissioners decide which power generator would be able to sell to the electricity market at rates that could be unfair to consumers. They will also implement the system loss cap favorable to power distributors.

In an earlier decision, the same ERC commissioners gave utility firms four long years to lower their system loss cap from 8.5 percent to 5.5 percent for private utilities and from 13 percent to 8.5 percent for electric cooperatives. Supposedly, the period was for a smooth transition when it obviously prolongs power consumers’ decades of agony in paying high system loss charge.

This administration is serious in stamping out corruption in government, but the courts seem to be undoing expulsions of “commissioners”. These officials may have hoodwinked judges with scare tactics such as threats of power outages since the ERC would be unable to approve or extend expiring power supply agreements. But ultimately, the government will have to pull the plug on corrupt officials who do nothing but abuse the public.

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