ERC shifts legal proceedings to online platform

Published August 15, 2020, 5:00 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is temporarily shifting to online platform on its legal proceedings – mainly on the conduct of public hearings on cases as well as the filing of petitions or applications with the agency.

The regulatory body said it is in the process of crafting the interim guidelines for such electronic-based or online legal processes.

The proposed resolution on the legal e-processes of the Commission, it said, shall supplement its existing rules and procedures, chiefly those that are linked to pre-filing conference and public hearings.

As stressed by ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera, the online platform will be the agency’s “mechanism to adapt to ‘new normal’ which requires performing our tasks remotely and virtually in order to ensure the safety of all electric power stakeholders.”

She explained “the legal e-processes provide for a contactless transaction that ensures the safety of all stakeholders and our employees, as well, in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic.”

As propounded, the pre-filing process shall be done through electronic means for all rate applications or petitions; as well as other applications for relief that have direct impact on consumers.

Further, the ERC is directing stakeholders on electronic lodgment of motion, petition, compliance, manifestation, submission or any other pleading relative to a case that is pending with the regulatory body.

In turn, the ERC shall also be rendering services through electronic means, such as setting correspondence with the relevant parties via email.

When it comes to public hearings, the ERC stipulated that these may be carried out through videoconferencing system or other acceptable online or electronic tools.

“The virtual hearing shall be convened and conducted by the Commission using the Microsoft Teams or Zoom applications or such other secure platforms as it deems appropriate,” the ERC stated.

Given the rising cases of Covid-19 infections in the country, government agencies and regulatory bodies have switched to the online platforms so they could continually carry out their functions, especially on matters needing urgent actions or decisions.