'Unconstitutional request' from DOE irks solons in fuel crisis panel meeting

The Department of Energy (DOE) asked for something unconstitutional during Monday's Fuel Crisis Ad Hoc Committee meeting--the "delegated authority" to suspend excise tax on fuel--and got chewed up by House members as a result.

Ad hoc panel co-chairperson, Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda asked on Monday, March 7 DOE Undersecretary Gerardo Erguiza what kind of "power" the agency wants to have in light of the ongoing fuel price surge.

"Can you specify what powers do you want?" Salceda asked Erguiza was a resource person in the ad hoc panel meeting.

"For example Mr. Chair, the suspension of the excise tax if you can...," answered the DOE official, who was instantly cut off by Salceda.

"Ay hindi pwede yan sa yo (That can't be given to you), it doesn't belong to you," the Bicol congressman said. Tax regulations need to be legislated by Congress.

"That's why if you won't delegate it...you're asking Mr. Chair what power," Erguiza said, noting that the proposal was to have such power "as delegated authority". He however clarified that "It's up to the wisdom of Congress" whether or not it would give it to them.

"DOE or DOF (Department of Finance), doesn't matter to us," Erguiza said.

"Of course it matters, sir," countered Salceda, "because you are the regulators of the energy sector and then you will have the saying powers over the same over your regulator sector...it will make you a superpower."

(Screenshot from Zoom meeting)

Another ad hoc panel co-chairperson, AAMBIS-OWA Party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, aired her frustration following the exchange she just heard.

"Parang may pinepresenta kayo pero wala naman detalye (Your presentation lacks details). Sana po alam niyo na kung ano ang gusto ninyo (I wish you already know what you want) so that congressmen can already assess," she said.

Referring to the DOE, Garin said: "You want powers but you do not know what you're asking for eh...you want the power, the discretion to suspend tax, which taxation is basically only lodged in the powers of Congress."

"We cannot delegate that, that's unconstitutional, sir. Hopefully your legal department can study that further," stressed the former deputy speaker.

"Pero sana po last week na natin na-study kasi the people cannot wait naman na next month pa natin bibigyan ng solution (I just hope that we studied it last week because people cannot wait up to next month for a solution)," she said.