Catanduanes NGO files graft raps vs. ex-ERC chair Ducut, energy officials over questionable deal

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An anti-corruption watchdog group based in Catanduanes has filed graft charges against former Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairperson Zenaida Ducut and other former and incumbent power executives for approving an allegedly spurious agreement between two companies.

In a 19-page complaint, the Catanduanes Crusaders Against Illegal Drugs and Corruption (CCAIDC) accused Ducut, former National Power Corporation president Cyril del Callar and five other former and incumbent ERC officials of violating Sections 3e and 3g of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by approving the Electricity Supply Agreement (ESA) between FICELCO and Catanduanes Power Generation Incorporated (CPGI).

CCAIDC said FICELCO and CPGI filed an application for ESA with the ERC on March 2011 for the former to purchase power from the latter even if CPGI had no track record in the industry and the lease contract for the 3.6-megawatt Marinawa Daihatsu Diesel Power Plant (MDPP) was questionable.

The group said Ducut, together with Commissioners Alejandro Barin, Maria Teresa Castaneda and Jose Reyes approved the application for ESA in July 2012.

“The manifest partiality and evident bad faith on the part of the respondents public officers of ERC and their criminal and malicious act of giving unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference in favor of respondents private individuals were comleted on 03 July 2012 when the ERC rendered a decision…,” it said.

CCAIDC argued that the ESA was lopsided and disadvantageous to Catanduanes residents because it gave POWER One, a company linked to CPGI, unilateral authority to create another firm that will undertake its obligations.

Shortly after CPGI was formed in 2007, the group noted that FICELCO and POWER ONE, which had an original agreement to supply power in Catanduanes, entered into another contract to rescind the latter’s obligations another an earlier ESA.

It said the formation of CPGI appeared to be just a money-making venture for POWER ONE since it used legalese to circumvent the obligation of making a new power plant for the province, while at the same time earning profits.

CCAIDC said FICELCO has been subleasing the diesel generators it leased from NAPOCOR for P500,000 yearly even if the state-run power company rents it for P1 million.

“Using the diesel generators owned by NAPOCOR, CPGI produces the electricity and sells it to FICELCO for P15 million, thereby making a profit of P14 million yearly.

“FICELCO, in return, charges the P15 million it pays to CPGI, thereby putting an additional burden upon consumers of the province of Catanduanes,” it said.

By approving the ESA, which included the lease contract for the generators, CCAIDC said ERC became party to a scheme intended “to purposely favor POWER ONCE CORPORATION through connivance among respondents.”

The group said the contracts were disadvantageous to the residents of Catanduanes, who had to contend with erratic and poor power services.

CCAIDC said the deals would not have materialized if ERC did not approve them, showing “manifest partiality, evident bad faith and inexcusable negligence.”

Aside from Ducut and Del Callar, also named respondents in the complaint were Barin, Castaneda, Reyes, ERC Commissioners Alfredo Non and Victoria Yap-Taruc, FICELCO President Bienvenido Berjuega, POWER ONE President Facundo Yeneza Jr. and CPGI President Agerico Abrogar.