Palace to effect suspension of ERC commissioners

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang confirmed that the Office of the President (OP) will implement Friday the suspension order handed down by the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) against four officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing in Malacañang on April 20, 2018. (YANCY LIM/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN) Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

In a text message, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that the OP will effect the suspension of ERC commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana.

“Got confirmation, OP will execute suspension tomorrow,” Roque said.

Lawyer Rolando Faller, the legal counsel of the four commissioners, said his clients could not have just left their positions because that would constitute another crime.

However, he said that the four commissioners would be ready to follow the order of the OP.

“While there is no TRO issued by the CA, there is also no directive from the Office of ES (Executive Secretary) Medialdea to implement the suspension order. The 4 commissioners will stand ready to comply with the directive if one is issued and served upon them,” Faller said.

“If they will abandon their office, then, that constitutes abandonment of office, which is a crime. The Decision of the OMB is clear that the implementation of the suspension is coursed through the OP,” he added.

According to Roque, abandonment is impossible if there is a suspension order.

“Preliminarily, of course defense counsel will say that! There can’t be abandonment when there’s a legal suspension order! Is it stated in the Order that OP should enforce?” Roque said in a separate text message.

The Ombudsman handed down the suspension order on the officials for three months after finding them guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, aggravated by simple misconduct and simple neglect of duty for allegedly allowing electric to forgo the bidding of their power supply requirements at the public’s expense.

In a resolution dated February 9, the CA issued a 60-day TRO against the one-year suspension of the four commissioners. However, since the OMB issued the suspension last Dec. 11, 2017, Malacañang has not announced any replacement for the said commissioner.

According to the CA, grave and irreparable injury can be committed if the TRO is not issued in favor of the petitioners-Commissioners.

“Given the circumstances of the instant case, this Court must look at the big picture and consider the interest of the public, the irreparable injury that it may suffer if a TRO is not issued,” the CA Resolution stated.

Malacañang earlier welcomed the decision of the CA, saying the suspension of the commissioners would have impaired public service.

“The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) would have been seriously paralyzed and the economy, particularly the energy sector, would have suffered grave damage had the (TRO) not been issued,” Roque had said.