Published March 13, 2017, 10:00 PM by Charissa M. Luci
Lawmakers grilled yesterday Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Jose Vicente Salazar over the supposed approval of procurement contracts without proper bidding and procedure.
Appearing before the joint hearing of the House Committees on Energy and Good Government and Public Accountability on the death of late ERC Director Francisco Villa Jr., veteran journalist Rosario “Charie” Villa told the panel that it was Salazar who was “pushing” his older brother to sign illegal documents.
“The day before he took his life, he told me that ‘Chairman Salazar is pushing me to sign illegal documents.’ I said to him, then quit your job. Marami akong kakilala. Akin na bio-data mo, mag-resign ka na (I know many employers. Give me your bio-data, and you resign),” she said.
She confirmed that her brother’s suicide notes are “authentic and real.”
“I decided to come here dahil gusto kong samahan ang mga kasamahan ni Jun. Pinagtatawanan natin ang pest control, AVP, dahil maliit na halaga, pero sa isang kawani, malaki iyon. Magkano lang ba ang sinusweldo ng kapatid ko? Sa kanya, mahalaga na ina-appoint siya na Bids and Awards Committee chairman (I decided to come here for the sake of Jun’s colleagues. We are making fun of pest control, AVP because it only involves small amount, but for a public servant, it matters. How much salary he was getting from doing his work? To him, it is important for him to be appointed as Bids and Awards Committee chairman),” Villa said she broke into tears.
On Nov. 9, 2016, the older Villar shot himself inside his house in Parañaque City.
Ms. Villa even told the panel that it was Salazar and his cousin, Esteban Lorenzo Jose Riva, head executive assistant, who pushed his brother to sign alleged “illegal” and “rigged” documents. She even cleared former ERC Bids and Awards Committee member Sharon Montaner and Cherrylyn Gonzales, secretariat head of the ERC’s Bids and Awards Committee, of any wrongdoing in connection with the reported dubious handling of contracts.
“I feel for the government employees na naiipit. Kung may mali sa law, sa procurement, paki tama (I feel for the government employees who were caught in the middle. If there is a loophole in the law, especially in procurement, please have it corrected),” she said.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, said Salazar was “clearly lying” when he told the joint panel that he has no knowledge of the ERC’s boardroom construction.
“You are clearly lying. Based on the affidavit of the BAC members, you ordered the construction of the boardroom,” he said. “How can you not know of construction when the boardroom is beside your office?” he asked.
“I think being the head, there is no other head who instructed the construction of the board room other than Chairman Salazar,” Pimentel said.
In response, Salazar said, “I knew about the ongoing renovation, but was unaware of procurement process.”
1-CARE partylist Rep. Carlos Roman Uybarreta, vice chairman of the House Committee on Energy, chided some ERC officials for using the late Director Villa for their “lapses” after Riva told the panel that it was the late ERC official who gave him the green light to start the construction of the board room.
“I pity Atty. Villa, he’s not here to defend himself. Stop using your colleagues for the lapses you have committed. Reading the affidavit of the two earlier witnesses, they speak highly of Director Villa and other commissioners. I think something is definitely wrong here,” Uybaretta said.