Palace suspends ERC chairman
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Malacañang suspended Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairman Jose Vicente Salazar following allegations of corruption.
This was confirmed by Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella late Wednesday night, May 2.
"The Office of the President has placed ERC Chair Jose Vicente Salazar on preventive suspension pending investigation of the various complaints filed against him" said Abella.
The order from the Office of the President, dated May 2, places him under "preventive suspension for a period of 90 days effective immediately."
The order was signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
Malacañang cited in its suspension order the administrative charges against Salazar alleging "serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, and grave misconduct."
Salazar was accused of "unilaterally issuing Orders" on the renewal of 7 Electric Power Purchase Agreements, a violation Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) which states that the ERC must act as a collegial body, with decisions made by all commissioners, not just one.
Salazar also supposedly persuaded or influenced other officials to violate the law. The Palace order specifically cited the example of ERC Bids and Awards Committee Chairman Francisco Jose Villa, who allegedly committed suicide after being forced to disregard proper procedure in approving contracts and hiring consultants.
Malacañang's move comes a month after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman accusing Salazar and 3 other officials of signing contracts for an infomercial project without making the contract go through public bidding.
This is a violation of the Government Procurement Reform Act and Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Salazar's fellow ERC commissioners also filed a complaint against him with the Civil Service Commission for appointing officials without the approval of other commissioners.
The commissioners who sued Salazar are Alfredo Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Magpale-Asirit and Geronimo Sta Ana.
In their complaint, they recommended that Salazar be suspended so that would not be able to "tamper" with evidence relating to the complaint.
They said Salazar has a tendency to "manufacture or conceal" documents.
On Thursday, May 4, Malacañang announced the appointment of ERC Commissioner Alfredo Non as officer-in-charge ERC chairman to take over Salazar's duties while he is suspended.
Starting in November last year, ERC officials became the subject of President Rodrigo Duterte's public tirades.
He accused its commissioners of turning ERC into a "milking cow" by hiring "hundreds of consultants." He demanded the resignation of its officials. After the commissioners, including Salazar, said they would not resign, he threatened to "abolish" the ERC. – Rappler.com