By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 14, 2017 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - A ranking official of the House of Representatives yesterday expressed doubt over the alibi of Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jose Vicente Salazar in connection with corruption allegations bared by an ERC official who committed suicide in November 2016.
“You are clearly lying because based on the affidavit of the BAC (bids and awards committee) members, ikaw iyung nagpagawa ng boardroom (you were the one who had the boardroom renovated),” Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House good governance committee, told Salazar.
The PDP-Laban stalwart and ally of President Duterte noted that the boardroom, located beside Salazar’s office, was the subject of a controversial renovation project prior to BAC chairman Francisco Jose Villa Jr.’s suicide.
During yesterday’s hearing, Salazar admitted knowing about the renovation project.
“I know that the boardroom was completed. But with respect to the process, as this was undertaken, I had no knowledge,” the ERC chief told the Pimentel panel which was investigating the reasons surrounding Villa’s suicide.
Villa is the younger brother of ABS-CBN executive Rosario Sofia “Charie” Villa.
The younger Villa left a suicide note that purportedly exposed corruption within the ERC.
Cherry Lynn Gonzales, former ERC bids and awards committee secretariat head, said during yesterday’s hearing that the ERC boardroom renovation was completed in the first quarter of 2016.
But she also revealed that the invitation to bid for the renovation contract was posted in October 2016, long after the project was finished.
Pimentel said it would be “impossible” for Salazar not to know about the project.
Salazar said he was only informed about the BAC process during the last hearing. He said the request did not come from his office but from the Office of the General Counsel.
Meanwhile, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has filed a bill in the House that seeks to abolish the ERC following the corruption allegations.
“The suspicions raised against the integrity of the ERC, which is primarily entrusted with regulating the country’s electric industry and promoting competition in the market, cannot be ignored,” he stated in his House Bill 5020.
Alvarez proposed the creation of the Board of Energy, which shall be an attached agency of the Department of Energy.
“This will ensure that the newly created board shall be explicitly within the regulatory arm of the government and specifically, within the direct control and supervision of the President,” the House leader said.