Four Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) commissioners have asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to stop the Office of the Ombudsman from imposing a three-month suspension against them.
Commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana have filed a petition asking the CA to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against their suspension for allegedly tolerating Meralco’s misuse of the electricity bill deposits of consumers.
“In ruling that the Commissioners committed neglect of duty, not only it made a very hasty decision, Ombudsman is imposing its own ‘wisdom’ on regulation of a highly specialized industry,” the petitioners said.
“This interference is not only unjust, but it disrespects the line of separation of powers in our government structure,” they pointed out.
The Ombudsman acted on the complaint filed by consumer group National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, Inc. (Nasecore) which alleged that the four commissioners permitted Meralco to treat the deposits as part of capital instead of guarantees which must be returned to consumers upon termination of electricity subscriptions.
“Meralco treated the bill deposits as part of its capital without the benefit of a reasonable return of interest to accrue to consumers – a practice which respondents appeared to have acquiesced in,” the Ombudsman said in a resolution.
The four commissioners warned the CA that should they could suspended “there is a clear and present disruption, nay cessation, of important and exigent public service necessitating relief from this Court.”
“Given the circumstances of the instant case, this Court must look at the bigger picture and consider the interest of the public, the irreparable injury that it may suffer if a TRO is not issued,” they said.
“This is because, as pointed out earlier, petitioners are public officials performing important duties and functions pertaining to the power sector. We hasten to add that what We give importance to and is of utmost concern is not the petitioners themselves but their office, and the public service that would be and currently is being jeopardized by reason of their present predicament,” they added.