Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ERC chief ready to quit over corruption charges

 (The Philippine Star) |

MANILA, Philippines - Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairman Jose Vicente Salazar has offered to quit his post if lawmakers can find evidence of any act of corruption on his part.
Asked during a House hearing if he was willing to resign if his accusers could come up with credible evidence against him, he said, “Yes, but I believe we will not find anything.”
Francisco Villa Jr., who headed the ERC bids and awards committee, committed suicide in November 2016 over alleged corruption in the ERC.
In a suicide note, Villa accused “top management” of pressuring him on some questionable deals, including an audio-visual presentation (AVP) project. Villa said he was “under pressure” to approve a contract for the project in favor of a certain Luis Morelos.
Salazar denied pressuring Villa, saying the AVP project did not push through because the bidding for it had failed twice and the Commission on Audit (COA) has scrutinized the aborted project and found no irregularity in it.
Field auditors from the COA have cleared Salazar of alleged corruption over the controversial AVP project.
According to an investigation report signed by state auditor Vivencio Quiambao Jr. and supervising auditor Flovita Felipe, there is no ground to conclude that the AVP was anomalous as it “was not consummated” and no payment was made to anyone in connection with the project.
Salazar welcomed the result of the audit report.
“We are pleased to note that the report compiled by the COA following its investigation is consistent with the earlier information the ERC released concerning the audio-visual project in question,” he said.
“It is significant that the COA report has confirmed the fact that no contract has been awarded for the project in view of the successive failed biddings, and that no funds were expended in connection with it.
“With the conclusion of the investigation by the COA, we can now put this period behind us and face the future with greater confidence in our ability to transform the vision of the ERC into reality,” he added.
During the House hearing, Salazar’s four colleagues in the ERC also questioned his decision to stop an internal inquiry into Villa’s death, saying people suspected that the ERC was hiding something.
But the ERC chief said he had to discontinue it to give way to the COA scrutiny and a separate probe launched by the National Bureau of Investigation.
It was the prudent thing to do, he said.
Deputy speaker and Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo chided the four commissioners for “ganging up” on their chairman.
“Why are you raising a howl on supposed wrongdoing in a project involving P300,000-P400,000 when you kept silent when your former chairperson was accused in the pork barrel scam?” he asked.
He was referring to former Pampanga representative Zenaida Ducut, whom the Office of the Ombudsman has charged in connection with the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
Ducut allegedly acted as agent for businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the suspected mastermind of the pork barrel scam. – With Elizabeth Marcelo, Danessa Rivera

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