23 December 2003
The Freedom from Debt Coalition denounces the public hearing that the Energy Regulatory Commission conducted yesterday as a sham. The ERC’s patent refusal to allow relief for consumers during the public hearing is a manifest bias for Meralco.
FDC laments the propensity of ERC to grant provisional authorities in favor of utilities to the detriment of consumers. These provisional authorities are often a fait accompli because the final decision is almost always the same as the provisional authority.
Past experiences show the disastrous effects of issuing such provisional authorities. In the case of Meralco, it was given a provisional increase on its rates in 1994. The Supreme Court, however, has ordered Meralco to refund the provisional increase. Until now, Meralco has failed to refund the whole amount.
FDC believes that consumers can no longer expect the ERC to protect the public interest from big utilities like Meralco.
Together with co-petitioners – Ma. Teresa Diokno-Pascual, Akbayan Party-list Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales, Sanlakas Party-list Rep. Jose Virgilio Bautista, and Partido Manggagawa Party-list Rep. Renato Magtubo – FDC has thus filed with the Supreme Court a pleading to issue a temporary restraining order or a status quo order against the ERC and Meralco from implementing the 12-centavo provisional increase. Further, the petitioners through their counsel Atty. Theodore O. Te of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) are requesting the SC to annul the ERC order granting Meralco the provisional authority.
Aside from these reliefs, FDC and co-petitioners are asking the SC to declare as unconstitutional Rule 3, Section 4(c) of the Implementing Rules of EPIRA. This provision in the IRR gives ERC the power to grant provisional authorities, which the EPIRA did not provide for. This constitutes “undue delegation of legislative power.”
Finally, the petitioners are urging the High Court to make the TRO permanent and prohibit the ERC from taking any action on Meralco's application. The SC should also enjoin the ERC and Meralco from carrying out the order that granted Meralco the provisional authority.
Since the ERC has failed to live up to its mandate to protect the public interest, together with co-petitioners, FDC is now asking the Supreme Court to uphold that duty and protect the consuming public from suffering an irreparable injury of another rate increase.