By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang welcomed the move of the Court of Appeals (CA) to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Office of the Ombudsman’s (OMB) suspension of four Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) commissioners.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, in a statement, echoed the statement of the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) that the suspension of the commissioners would have impaired public service,” thus the TRO is founded on extreme necessity.”
“The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) would have been seriously paralyzed and the economy, particularly the energy sector, would have suffered grave damage had the (TRO) not been issued,” Roque said Wednesday.
“The Office of the President therefore lauds the grant of injunctive relief as a step in the right direction,” he added.
In a resolution dated February 9, the CA issued a 60-day TRO against the one-year suspension of ERC Commissioners Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Asirit and Geronimo Sta. Ana.
The four commissioners were suspended after being found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, aggravated by simple misconduct and simple neglect of duty for allegedly allowing electric firms to forego the bidding of their power supply requirements at the public’s expense.
However, since the OMB issued the suspension last December 11, 2017, Malacañang has not announced any replacement for the commissioners.
According to the CA, grave and irreparable injury could be committed if the TRO was not issued in favor of the petitioners-Commissioners.
“Given the circumstances of the instant case, this Court must look at the big picture and consider the interest of the public, the irreparable injury that it may suffer if a TRO is not issued,” the CA Resolution stated.
“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,” the Resolution furthered.
New ERC Chairman Agnes Devanadera also hailed the decision of the CA, saying the regulatory body can now fulfill its mandate.
“With the TRO issued by the Court of Appeals, the ERC can now resume with the regular performance of our duties and functions and act on petitions with urgency,” Devanadera said in a statement.
“I’m glad that the CA gave weight on the impact of the vacuum of leadership caused by the Ombudsman’s suspension of the ERC Commissioners and considered the welfare of the electric power industry stakeholders, most especially the consuming public who will eventually suffer the consequences of the ERC’s inability to perform its mandate,” she added.
Devanadera replaced former ERC chair Jose Vicente Salazar a month before the OMB’s suspension on the four commissioners was reported. Salazar was dismissed by Duterte after being found guilty following charges of neglect of duty and other anomalies last October, 2017.
The OMB, on the other hand, was directed to file their objection to the application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction within 10 days from receipt of the CA’s Resolution.