December 12, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

DoE keeps its hands off ERC squabble

THE Department of Energy (DoE) on Thursday said it has kept its hands off the squabble involving key officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), citing the latter’s independence and the issue’s “sensitivity.”

“I think they (ERC commissioners) have a memo (sent) directly to the President,” Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella told reporters, adding that the officials have also sent a memo to DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi.

On Tuesday, four ERC Commissioners issued a resolution that temporarily stopped the reorganization, designation, and reassignment of all of the agency’s personnel from March 20, 2017 onwards. The resolution was signed by commissioners Alfredo J. Non, Gloria Victoria C. Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia A. Magpale-Asirit and Geronimo D. Sta. Ana.

Before all four issued the resolution, Chairman Jose Vicente B. Salazar released office orders that transferred several officials in the agency and, on March 20, designated Ronaldo G. Gomez as the ERC’s officer-in-charge executive director. Previously, Mr. Gomez was chief energy regulation officer of the ERC’s Mindanao field office.

The commissioners later objected to Mr. Gomez’s designation, citing Mr. Salazar’s lack of authority to make the appointment in a March 21 meeting.

They also cited other issuances by Mr. Salazar, including reconsituting the composition of the power supply agreement-technical working group and the designation of a supervisor. They also pointed to the reassignment of three other officers.

The four commissioners said their memorandum to Mr. Salazar on April 11, 2017 formally interposed their objection to all the acts of designation and reassignment of the “critical personnel,” saying these are “contrary to the provisions of applicable laws and established precedents.”

They said the entire commission, not only the chairman, has the power to appoint the entire ERC staff. They cited as basis Executive Order No. 172, which created the Energy Regulatory Board. They added the commission, acting as a collegial body, participated in decision-making as far as promotions and appointments to executive director, director, and division chief positions were concerned.

On April 17, the four said they had met with representatives from the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary to air their concerns.

After the meeting, they said they had learned that Mr. Salazar took a leave of absence and “not knowing his whereabouts and when he will be back,” they were furnished by the deputy executive secretary copies of the chairman’s travel order. That order named Mr. Sta. Ana as OIC during Mr. Salazar’s absence.

“On the same date, another Office Order surfaced at the ERC naming Commissioner Sta. Ana as OIC to act as presiding officer during Commission meetings.”

“These new developments added to the existing confusion at the ERC,” the four said.

As a result, the commissioners called for a special meeting and “deliberated on actions that should be taken in the interim in the absence of a definitive resolution on who has authority to appoint, reorganize, designate, reassign in order to resolve the confusion.”

They later issued a resolution posted on the ERC website.

None of the commissioners and chairman showed up during the seminar the agency hosted on Thursday for reporters in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. -- Victor V. Saulon