Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Jose Vicente B. Salazar (center), shown in the agency’s website photo with Commissioners Geronimo D. Sta. Ana, Alfredo J. Non, Gloria Victoria C. Yap-Taruc and Josefina Patricia M. Asirit
A P1,000 budget.
This is the 2018 appropriation approved by the House of Representatives for the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), wracked with corruption allegations, during the plenary debates on Tuesday.
ERC got a measly P1,000 for its budget even as it proposed a P365-million allocation for the year 2018, inclusive of P14.047 million retirement and life insurance.
The budget sponsor Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat moved for the approval of a mere P1,000 budget for the ERC, which was beset with controversies since the suicide of its director Francisco Jose “Jun” Villa Jr. who exposed corruption in the commission in his suicide letter.
“Mr. Speaker, I am here to sponsor the budget of the ERC, and we are sponsoring a budget of P1,000 for the ERC for the year 2018,” Lobregat said
“Is the gentleman moving for the scrapping of the whole budget of the ERC,” Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza asked during the plenary debate.
A smiling Lobregat said: “No, I’m moving for P1,000.”
“Only for P1,000, the minority is very proud to be part of that motion. We support it,” Atienza said in seconding Lobregat’s motion.
At the sidelines of the plenary debate, Lobregat said the House approved a measly budget for the ERC, upon the instructions of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for the ERC to clean up its act following allegations of corruption in the commission.
“I think that would send a very strong message that the House of Representatives really wants the problems in ERC fixed… Yun talaga ang ina-ano ni Speaker that he wants to send a very, very strong message. And it has been a very long time since Congress has approved a one peso or equivalent to 1,000 peso budget for any agency,” Lobregat said.
ERC chairperson Jose Vicente Salazar, who was sued by his colleagues before the Civil Service Commission for dishonesty, oppression and grave misconduct, was mentioned in Villa’s suicide letter as being behind an alleged rigged infomercial project.
The ERC commissioners also face Ombudsman complaints for their alleged lavish travels abroad.
In a separate interview, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said the approval of a P1,000 budget sends a “strong message” to the ERC, which was investigated by the lower House for alleged rigged contracts and selective power supply agreements.
Zarate said the message was to call for a revamp within the ERC, which faces a “cloud of doubt” because of the strained ties between Salazar and the rest of the commissioners.
“It’s a strong message from the House. If the ERC as a regulatory body, ganun ang issues na nangyayari, may problema sila sa loob… Probably, kailangan may mangyaring cleansing sa ERC (those were the issues happening, there is an internal problem… Probably, an internal cleansing should happen),” Zarate said.
Zarate and Lobregat said the ERC may reconsider the P1,000 budget during the bicameral conference if it cleans up its ranks.
Despite several complaints filed against him, Salazar has refused to resign from his post despite a warning from President Rodrigo Duterte himself.
The National Bureau of Investigation has also filed graft raps before the Ombudsman against Salazar in connection with the rigged contract for the ERC informercial project. JPV