House energy committee chair to Ducut: Take leave of absence
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang won't push Energy Regulatory Commission Chairperson Zenaida Cruz-Ducut to resign, but the head of the House of Representatives' energy committee said the embattled official should at least take a leave of absence after being implicated in the pork barrel scam.
"I support the call for her to take a leave of absence because how can you run an agency if you are facing complaints? The ERC will be affected. She should take a leave," Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali of the ruling party said on Wednesday, December 18.
Ducut, a former representative of the 2nd district of Pampanga, is one of the respondents named in the second batch of graft complaints over the multi-billion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). She allegedly served as liaison between congressmen and scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, earning commissions from every fund endorsement received by fake NGOs.
According to the National Bureau of Investigation, Ducut pocketed commissions worth P3.2 million from brokering PDAF transactions for former representatives Arthur Pingoy Jr (P20.91 million), Douglas Cagas (P15.36 million), Salacnib Baterina (P9.6 million), Arrel Olaño (P7.97 million), Marc Douglas Cagas IV (P7.55 million) and former Muntinlupa Rep and former Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon (P2.7 million).
At the same time, other sectors have called on her resignation after her agency's suspicious approval of the Meralco power rate hike over a 3-month period.
The ERC chair, who enjoys a fixed term until 2015, has so far ignored calls for her to step down. Critics have been asking her to follow the lead of Biazon, who resigned as Customs commissioner after he was also named a respondent in the PDAF complaint.
Umali told Rappler Ducut should take a leave "out of delicadeza" and "to spare the administration from the many issues confronting the sector."
Ducut is a carry-over official from the last administration. She was appointed to the ERC by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, her kabalen. She became ERC chairperson in 2008 when presidential son Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo was chair of the House energy committee.
Ducut earlier snubbed the House energy committee's hearing on the proposed staggered Meralco rate hike approved by ERC.
Under the scheme, Meralco will raise rates by P2.41 per kilowatt hour in December, P1.21 per kilowatt hour in February 2014, and P0.53 per kilowatt hour in March 2014.
Should Ducut fail to attend the next energy committee hearing set for January 20 next year, Umali said the House panel will move to subpoena the official. She, however, showed up at the Senate hearing on the same issue on Wednesday.
"If she does not come on January 20, that is considered snubbing because she had personally advised. We will subpoena her if she does not attend. We can also cite her in contempt but we don't want to do that because she is a resource person," Umali said. – Angela Casauay/Rappler.com