Cusi rapped at Ombudsman’s office over brownouts, bill shocks

Published July 23, 2021, 4:22 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

A coalition of consumer groups had filed a case against Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi at the Office of the Ombudsman for ‘grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty’ allegedly due to his failure to prevent the rotational blackouts as well as bill shocks that tormented Filipino consumers in his five years of leadership at the Department of Energy.

The complaint was filed on Friday (July 23) by the Power for People Coalition (P4P), Sanlakas and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) against the energy chief for alleged violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act 3019.

The energy chief was also rapped for “inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties, and conduct prejudicial to the best interests of service in connection with the power rate hikes in recent months while he was embroiled in the PDP-Laban leadership fight.”

To recall, Cusi was in a PDP-Laban meeting in Cebu when Luzon grid was plunged into unwanted rotating blackouts on May 31; and that was followed with another round of power service interruptions the next day (June 1).

After the consumers’ suffering over power outages, they were also jolted subsequently with rate hikes in the succeeding months – and it came at a staggering P1.00 to P3.00 per kilowatt hour (kWh) price spikes for some areas served by the electric cooperatives.

In a statement to the media, P4P Convenor Gerry Arances stressed that “for five years, we tried to believe the message of change and gave Secretary Cusi the chance to stop the brownouts and rate hikes. For five years, nothing happened.”

He noted that despite the manifest incompetence in his post at the DOE, “we can see that he can work quickly and effectively – but only when it comes to politicking and not his actual job.”

Arances emphasized “w see here clear proof that he is not doing his job and therefore must be held accountable to the people who pay his salary.”

Ian Rivera, national coordinator of PMCJ, similarly highlighted that in Cusi’s first year in office alone, “75% of all outages that caused red and yellow alerts were unplanned and this pattern was repeated throughout his term.”

The energy secretary was also hit on his technology-neutral approach, which was seen giving preference to coal plant developments. That reigned as a policy at the DOE in four years until his declaration of coal moratorium in October last year.

“In this same period, DOE still insisted on a ‘technology neutral stance’ that not only allowed coal to proliferate and cause environmental and climate damages, but seemingly also kept the department from seriously holding erring companies accountable for failing to supply power as they ought,” Rivera added.

As stated by Manjette Lopez, president of Sanlakas, “we never heard of any generation company (genco) or distribution utility punished by the DOE under the leadership of Cusi for the bill shock, the high price of electricity and the failure to deliver the contractually agreed upon supply of electricity.”