ERC chairman still won't resign despite Duterte's order
MANILA, Philippines – Despite President Rodrigo Duterte's second demand that Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) officials resign, ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar said he is not stepping down just yet, preferring to meet with the President first.
"I want to talk to him. My conscience is clear, but when I talk to him, I don't want my discussion with the President to be premised on those things (allegations of corruption)," said Salazar during a press conference on Thursday, November 24, streamed via Facebook by ABS-CBN reporter Alvin Elchico.
The President claims that, based on intelligence reports, corruption is rampant in the ERC. He was particularly angered by the supposed large number of consultants hired by ERC officials.
Salazar said he is not resigning because of his "obligation" to the agency, a regulatory body created by law to protect consumers from abusive practices in the power industry that hike up energy prices.
"I am the leader of this agency. We cannot stop what we are doing at ERC. If the ERC stops, kawawa naman 'yung industriya, kawawa naman 'yung consumers (the industry will suffer, consumers will suffer)," he said.
Salazar insisted he is innocent of any allegations of corruption but could not speak for his colleagues.
"As a person, wala akong ginagawang katiwalian. Kung may ginagawang katiwalian ang mga kasamahan ko, that is not for me to say," he said. (As a person, I have not engaged in any corrupt practice. If my colleagues have, that is not for me to say.)
He is hoping to meet with Duterte at the soonest opportunity in order to "get facts" about the corruption allegations and assure him of the ERC's commitment to implementing reforms.
"When we get the facts from the President, I assure you we will address those things," he said.
Some reforms at the ERC include replacing many employees and making processes more transparent.
"We are more careful in evaluating power supply arrangements. Our transactions should be transparent. We are conscious that there should be integrity in our initiatives," said Salazar.
The abolition of the ERC will require Congressional action since the body was created by a law. ERC officials, however, are presidential appointees.
Duterte, on Wednesday, blamed corruption in the ERC for high prices of electricity in the Philippines. – Pia Ranada/Rappler.com