Militant lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop Manila Electric Company (Meralco) from collecting bill deposit from consumers.
“The electricity bill deposit is an unjust charge that is being used by Meralco to boost its profits through a commingling scheme that is also unjust and illegal within the framework of the EPIRA and the Meralco Franchise,” read the petition filed on Tuesday (April 30).
The petitioners are Bayan Muna Chairman Neri J. Colmenares, Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate, Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Ariel B. Casilao, Gabriela Women’s Partylist Reps. Emerenciana A. De Jesus and Arlene D. Brosas, Act Teachers Partylist Reps. Antonio L. Tinio and Francisca L. Castro, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane I. Elago, and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
They argued, among other, that the bill deposits are not allowed under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).
“Based on the EPIRA, Meralco, being a DU (distribution utility), can only collect from its consumers (i) distribution wheeling charges, (ii) connection fees, and (iii) retail rate,” explained the petitioners.
Apart from declaring as “illegal and void” the bill deposit provision in the Magna Carta for Residential Electricity Consumers, the petitioners also asked the SC to order Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) “to implement the refund of the Bill Deposits to the Consumers in the Captive Market.”
Because of this, the high tribunal was also asked to order the Commission on Audit (COA) to audit all the bill deposits collected and the interests earned by Meralco from the collected deposits.
In the alternative, the SC could also “prohibit and declare as illegal the commingling of the bill deposit funds and order the ERC and Meralco to pay the consumers the interest rate earned by the bill deposits.”