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From Arroyo to Duterte: Who is new ERC Chairperson Agnes Devanadera?

FROM ARROYO TO DUTERTE. New ERC Chairperson Agnes Devanadera is no stranger to the government.

Rappler file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Former solicitor general Agnes Devanadera will once again don a new hat after she was appointed Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson by President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, November 22.

She will serve until July 2022, replacing Jose Vicente Salazar, who was dismissed by Malacañang over “simple and grave misconduct” in connection with corruption charges.

Devanadera will oversee ERC and its 4 commissioners who earlier asked the Office of the President to dismiss Salazar.

Time with Arroyo

No stranger to politics and the government, Devanadera is perhaps best known as the first woman solicitor general in the Philippines. (READ: FAST FACTS: The Office of the Solicitor General and its roles)

She was appointed in 2007 by then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She held the position until 2009 when she was appointed justice secretary before Arroyo’s term ended. 

Her involvement with the Arroyo administration, however, started when she was appointed executive director of the Philippine Development Alternatives Foundation (PDAF).

Devanadera later became the undersecretary for legal and legislative affairs in the Department of the Interior and Local Government – a position she held from 2003 to 2004. 

In 2004, Devanadera became the Government Corporate Counsel and in 2007, briefly became the DOJ acting secretary when Raul Gonzales went on medical leave.

Her stint in government started when she was elected mayor of Sampaloc, Quezon in 1988 and served until 1998. Her father also previously served as mayor. 

During her stint as president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines in 1997, she pushed for charter amendments to pave the way for reelection of then president Fidel V. Ramos, according to a 2006 Newsbreak report.  

In 1998, she became the executive director of Lakas-National Union of Christian Democrats (Lakas-NUCD). 

The activist 

Before she took on many government positions, Devanadera was a private lawyer and an activist who fought against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. (READ: Agnes Devanadera: The activist comes full circle)

Her activism was evident when she joined anti-Marcos rallies during her time at St Paul’s College, according to a 2006 Newsbreak report. She eventually went to help organize farmers in Quezon and educate Kalingas of the Cordillera. 

The daughter of a former mayor was persuaded to join an auditing firm but left after she led a strike. She then studied law and went to the United States where she was admitted to the New York bar.

In 1983, Devanadera went back to the Philippines and became managing partner at the Balgos & Perez law firm while joining rallies that culminated in the 1986 People Power Revolution. (WATCH: Agnes Devanadera reacts to youth's views on People Power)

"I was very involved in student activism, it didn't take a second for me to say that this is it," she said in 2016.  

Dropped graft case 

CLEARED. Former government counsel Agnes Devanadera escapes arraignment on April 20, 2017 due to her urgent motion to quash. She is cleared a little more than a month later.

Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

Devanadera was charged with graft in 2006 in relation to a debt agreement between the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) and Radstock, a British lending firm. She approved the deal during her stint as government corporate counsel. 

The Supreme Court (SC) nullified the deal in 2009, saying it has no basis in the Constitution and would unnecessarily burden the government. In 2010, the case was re-filed.

In May 2017, however, the Sandiganbayan dismissed the graft case, stating that the 6 years it took the Ombudsman prosecutors to investigate it was already a “violation of Devanadera’s right to a speedy disposition of cases. (READ: Devanadera cleared in P6-B graft case due to Ombudsman delay) – with research by Sofia Tomacruz/

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.