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ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION (ERC) EXEC LEFT 3 'SUICIDE NOTES' BEFORE TAKING OWN LIFE
[RELATED: Duterte orders ERC exec’s death probed]


NOVEMBER 17 -ERC Director Francisco "Jun" Villa Jr. Three handwritten letters labelled as "suicide notes" were drafted by Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Director Francisco "Jun" Villa Jr. as early as August --- almost three months before he took his own life in their home in Parañaque City. Villa killed himself on November 9 after allegedly being pressured to approve procurement contracts and hiring consultants without proper bidding and procedure, his younger sister Charie Villa said. The letters that were dated August 23, 24, and 25 were shown by Villa's family during the late official's "pasiyam" on Thursday. All suicide notes seemed like prayers as all letters were addressed to the "Lord Jesus Christ."  READ MORE...RELATED, Duterte orders ERC exec’s death probed...

ALSO: Midnight deals at ERC reported
[RELATED EDITORIAL - Suicide in the ERC]


NOVEMBER 25 -FACING PROBE Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Jose Vicente B. Salazar (center), shown in the agency’s website photo with Commissioners Geronimo D. Sta. Ana, Alfredo J. Non, Gloria Victoria C. Yap-Taruc and Josefina PatriciaM. Asirit.
A consumer group has filed a graft complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman against Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) officials for enabling Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to forgo the bidding of its power supply contracts at the expense of the public. In a statement, Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas (ABP) accused the ERC of arbitrarily postponing the implementation of its own rules for competitive selection process (CSP) by six months. The rules, which require distribution utilities to hold competitive bidding when procuring power supply, was supposed to take effect on Nov. 6, 2015. But the ERC deferred its implementation to April 30 this year.  READ MORE...RELATED EDITORIAL, Suicide in the ERC...

ALSO: Energy chief vows to ferret out truth behind suicide of ERC exec
[RELATED: NBI starts probe into ERC exec’s death NBI anti-graft division leading the probe into Francisco Villa Jr.’s death and alleged corruption]


NOVEMBER 20 -CUSI: Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has vowed to ferret out the truth behind allegations of corruption made by an Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) official who took his own life. In a statement on Sunday, Cusi said he has already written to the family of journalist Charie Villa, whose brother ERC Director Francisco Villa Jr. killed himself inside his house in Parañaque last November 9. Charie Villa was earlier quoted as saying that her brother was being pressured to approve ERC procurement contracts and hiring consultants without proper bidding and procedure. His suicide notes also reportedly contained these allegations. Cusi said the Department of Energy and the ERC are "resolute in finding out the truth behind the allegations and issues raised." READ MORE...RELATED, NBI starts probe into ERC exec’s death NBI anti-graft division leading the probe into Francisco Villa Jr.’s death and alleged corruption...

ALSO: By D. Dulay - Duterte should make an example of ERC in anti-graft drive


NOVEMBER 22 -Atty. Dodo Dulay Atty. Dodo Dulay WHAT drives a man to take his own life? In the case of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Director Francisco “Jun” Villa Jr., it was, in his own words, the unbearable pressure to approve contracts without proper bidding and procedure. The alleged culprit? None other than his boss, ERC chairman and chief executive officer Jose Vicente B. Salazar, a former justice department undersecretary appointed during the “DaangMatuwid” administration of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd. In one of a series of suicide notes, Villa expressed a deep anxiety over reviewing procurement contracts at the electric power industry regulator: “My greatest fear in the bids and awards committee is the AVP by Luis Morelos which the chairman and CEO, Jose Vicente B. Salazar, chose through a rigged selection system. That will be a criminal act.” “I have fears about my BAC (bids and awards committee) work…Our mistakes may bring on [Commission on Audit] observations and disallowances. Those may affect me financially,” Villa wrote. READ MORE...

ALSO: ERC officials told to resign - Du30 mulls over filing graft raps [RELATED: Duterte threatens ERC overhaul]


NOVEMEBR 22 -PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday demanded the resignation of Energy Regulatory Commission officials after reports of rampant corruption inside the agency.
“They must resign,” Duterte said in a press briefing in Peru before leaving for Manila. He said he had read the internal and intelligence reports that pointed to anomalies and abuse of position. “I have options,” he said. “File a case against them all or demand that no money be appropriated. Their budget hearings are up. I can give them nothing.”  Duterte said he will ask Congress to either withhold the ERC’s budget or disband the agency altogether. READ MORE...RELATED, Duterte threatens ERC overhaul...

ALSO: ERC chief wants meet with DU30
[RELATED: Third party allowed to investigate ERC exec’s death]


NOVEMBER 22 -Energy Regulatory Commission Jose Vicente Salazar is waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte to return from Peru to seek out a meeting with him. ERC/Released PHILSTAR FILE NOV 21, 2016
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Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar has asked to meet with President Duterte, amid allegations of corruption at the commission which had led to the suicide of Planning and Information Service director Francisco Villa Jr. Salazar yesterday said he is confident the proposed meeting “would result in clearer directions from him regarding the issues facing the ERC.”
He assured that he will take the appropriate actions to protect the commission, part of which is to “immediately probe the allegations made by the late director Jun Villa and our expression of support and full cooperation for the planned inquiry by the Senate committee on energy.” READ MORE...RELATED,
Third party allowed to investigate ERC exec’s death...


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ERC director left 3 'suicide notes' before taking his own life


ERC Director Francisco "Jun" Villa Jr.

MANILA, NOVEMBER 28, 2016 (ABS-CBN) Katrina Domingo, Posted at Nov 17 2016 08:46 PM - Three handwritten letters labelled as "suicide notes" were drafted by Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Director Francisco "Jun" Villa Jr. as early as August --- almost three months before he took his own life in their home in Parañaque City.

Villa killed himself on November 9 after allegedly being pressured to approve procurement contracts and hiring consultants without proper bidding and procedure, his younger sister Charie Villa said.

The letters that were dated August 23, 24, and 25 were shown by Villa's family during the late official's "pasiyam" on Thursday. All suicide notes seemed like prayers as all letters were addressed to the "Lord Jesus Christ."

READ MORE...

FIRST NOTE
In his first note, Villa sought for the Lord's help as he "cannot physically bring himself to work" at the ERC due to "fears" about his work as chief of the agency's Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

He said his biggest fear was being called out by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the contents of an audio-visual presentation "by Luis Morelos which the chairman and CEO Jose Vicente B. Salazar chose through a rigged selection process."


ERC chairman and CEO Jose Vicente B. Salazar. Photo courtesy of Energy Regulatory Commission

Despite being uncomfortable with his tasks as BAC chief, Villa said he could not afford to be unemployed because he still had bills to settle. In the same letter, he said he "might even commit suicide" due to his stressful situation at work.

SECOND NOTE

Villa wrote another "suicide note" the following day. He said he felt bad filing a sick leave as his "psychological frame of fear, aversion to pressure, and worrying makes him unfit for work."

He said he planned to continue to skip work to avoid attending the "August 26 planning session" with Salazar.

THIRD NOTE

In Villa's third and last letter, he said he felt that he was "being set up for failure," but was relieved that a certain "E.D." signed "the Iloilo contracts."

Villa said he still could bring himself to return to work as his "ailment is more psychological and moral rather than physical."

"I want to shoot myself in the temple by using Dad's .38 caliber Smith and Wesson gun," the late ERC official wrote.

EARLY RETIREMENT

Almost three months after he wrote the letters, Villa filed an "application for early retirement" on November 4 at the ERC, citing insomnia and health concerns as reason.

"With great apologies, I must inform you that my health situation does not permit me to perform effectively my functions. I suffer insomnia nightly due to stress factors experienced at work and such disables me from being mentally and physically capable to hurdle work challenges," Villa's retirement letter addressed to Salazar read.

Five days after he submitted his early retirement letter, Villa took his life the exact way he said in his third suicide note.

Meantime, Salazar said he is "baffled by the insinuations," but will "refrain from ascribing any motive to the allegations" while Villa's siblings are still mourning the death of their kin.

"I believe it would be fair to Director Villa’s memory and to our Office for an impartial inquiry into the allegations to be done by an objective body," Salazar said in a statement.

"We owe it to Director Villa that we go through this process. This would help bring the matter to a closure, as all those who are bereaved by his death hope for," he said.

Villa's family is seeking help to establish a foundation "where employees like Jun who felt pressured because he wanted to stand up for what is right, can go to to seek redress from harassment and legal help."

Editor's note:
A group in the Philippines is dedicated to addressing those who have suicidal tendencies.
The crisis hotlines of the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation aim to make these individuals feel that someone is ready to listen to them.
These are their hotline numbers:
Information and Crisis Intervention Center
(02) 804-HOPE (4673)
0917-558-HOPE (4673) or (632) 211-4550
0917-852-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-6876
0917-842-HOPE (4673) or (632) 964-4084
In Touch Crisis Lines:
0917-572-HOPE or (632) 211-1305
(02) 893-7606 (24/7)
(02) 893-7603 (Mon-Fri, 9 am-5 pm)
Globe (63917) 800.1123 or (632) 506.7314
Sun (63922) 893.8944 or (632) 346.8776

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Duterte orders ERC exec’s death probed By Giovanni Nilles (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 21, 2016 - 12:00am 27 586 googleplus0 0


President Duterte has ordered an investigation into the suicide of Francisco Jose Villa Jr., chairman of the bidding body of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) last Friday, an official said yesterday. AP/Bullit Marquez, file

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte has ordered an investigation into the suicide of Francisco Jose Villa Jr., chairman of the bidding body of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) last Friday, an official said yesterday.

In a message from Peru, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the President wanted to know the truth behind Villa’s death.

The 54-year-old executive was allegedly pressured by his boss, ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar, into rigging bids.

Villa purportedly wrote: “My greatest fear in the bids and awards committee is the AVP by Luis Morelos which the chairman and CEO, Jose Vicente B. Salazar, chose through a rigged selection system. This will be a criminal act.”

Reports said Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has vowed to find the truth on allegations of corruption, assuring Villa’s family that the Department of Energy and the ERC are resolute in finding out the truth behind the allegations and issues raised.

Villa is the brother of television journalist Charie Villa, who was earlier quoted as saying her brother was being pressured to approve ERC procurement contracts and hiring consultants without proper bidding and procedure.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

“We need a strong energy regulator and a united energy family. Our strength should be based on the truth. As the leader of the sector, I enjoin everyone to be fair. We need to ensure that ERC personnel are able to recover immediately.


INQUIRER

Midnight deals at ERC reported Philippine Daily Inquirer / 01:01 AM November 25, 2016


FACING PROBE Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Jose Vicente B. Salazar (center), shown in the agency’s website photo with Commissioners Geronimo D. Sta. Ana, Alfredo J. Non, Gloria Victoria C. Yap-Taruc and Josefina PatriciaM. Asirit.

A consumer group has filed a graft complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman against Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) officials for enabling Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to forgo the bidding of its power supply contracts at the expense of the public.

In a statement, Alyansa Para sa Bagong Pilipinas (ABP) accused the ERC of arbitrarily postponing the implementation of its own rules for competitive selection process (CSP) by six months.

The rules, which require distribution utilities to hold competitive bidding when procuring power supply, was supposed to take effect on Nov. 6, 2015. But the ERC deferred its implementation to April 30 this year.

READ MORE...

7 agreements

ABP said this enabled Meralco to skirt the new requirement, as it gave the firm time to pursue seven “midnight” power supply agreements and file them with the ERC the day before the new deadline.

The lack of bidding for the long-term contracts, covering a total of 3,551 megawatts, would result in an overprice of P12.4 billion every year in the next 20 years, according to ABP.

“Such extension rendered the moral spirit of the CSP useless. Government regulators should not be allowed to fool around with the rules, especially when it will harm the consumers,” it said.

Because of this, the ERC officials were accused of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for causing undue injury to any party or giving unwarranted benefits to a private party.

Named respondents were ERC Chair Jose Vicente Salazar and Commissioners Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia Magpale-Asirit, Alfredo J. Non and Geronimo Sta. Ana.

“The contracts are onerous and antipeople. ERC is supposed to be protecting consumers as a rate-regulating body. It seems [to be] the other way around,” said ABP secretary general Aya Jallorina.

The group said corruption in the ERC was exposed after Director Francisco Jose Villa Jr., shot himself on Nov. 9. Villa left suicide notes that complained of pressure from ERC officials to hire consultants or approve procurement contracts without bidding. —VINCE F. NONATO

------------------------------------------

RELATED EDITORIAL FROM PHILSTAR

EDITORIAL - Suicide in the ERC (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 22, 2016 - 12:00am 2 67 googleplus2 1

No one had resigned as of yesterday afternoon from the Energy Regulatory Commission, with officials saying they wanted to explain their side first. So President Duterte, who had demanded the resignations, may have to reduce the ERC budget to zero or even “disband” it even as he ordered cases filed against officials of the regulatory body.

The President demanded the resignations amid reports that ERC director Francisco Villa Jr. committed suicide on Nov. 9 because his superiors had forced him, as chairman of the bids and awards committee, to approve procurement contracts and hire consultants without proper bidding. The reason for the suicide was indicated in three letters he wrote in August and made public by his family. All three letters were addressed to the “Lord Jesus Christ.”

In the first letter, Villa fretted about a possible government audit over an audio-visual presentation “by Luis Morelos” that ERC chairman and CEO Vicente Salazar “chose through a rigged selection process.” Villa wrote that he needed his job and mentioned the possibility of suicide. In the third and final letter, he wrote that he was “being set up for failure.”

“I want to shoot myself in the temple by using Dad’s .38 caliber Smith and Wesson gun,” he wrote. On Nov. 4, he filed for early retirement, citing health concerns. Five days later, he did exactly what he wrote about taking his own life.

Salazar has said he is “baffled by the insinuations” and said yesterday that he wanted to explain his side to President Duterte. Top ERC officials have a fixed term and cannot be fired by the President, but they can resign.

Like anyone who faces accusations of committing illegal acts, ERC officials have a right to due process and deserve their day in court. But they have to admit that in the court of public opinion, having their accuser kill himself gives his accusations an edge in the credibility department.

Villa’s death will always cast a shadow over policies and acts of the ERC under its current crop of officials, making it difficult for the regulatory agency to perform its tasks effectively. After explaining their side to the President, the officials concerned may want to weigh the wisdom of at least taking a leave so they can focus on the legal woes that they are expected to face.


GMA NEWS NETWORK

Energy chief Cusi vows to ferret out truth behind suicide of ERC exec
Published November 20, 2016 2:52pm


NOVEMBER 20 -CUSI:

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has vowed to ferret out the truth behind allegations of corruption made by an Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) official who took his own life.

In a statement on Sunday, Cusi said he has already written to the family of journalist Charie Villa, whose brother ERC Director Francisco Villa Jr. killed himself inside his house in Parañaque last November 9.

Charie Villa was earlier quoted as saying that her brother was being pressured to approve ERC procurement contracts and hiring consultants without proper bidding and procedure. His suicide notes also reportedly contained these allegations.

Cusi said the Department of Energy and the ERC are "resolute in finding out the truth behind the allegations and issues raised."

READ MORE...

"We need a strong energy regulator and a united energy family. Our strength should be based on the truth. As the leader of the sector, I enjoin everyone to be fair," Cusi said.

"We need to ensure that ERC personnel are able to recover immediately. They are also affected by the loss of their colleague but their service is needed by our country," he added.

Cusi said he has already spoken with the commissioners of the ERC, who also "want to get to the bottom of this."

"I have assured them of the department's support in carrying out their mandate in protecting electricity consumers," Cusi said.

"This is a challenge for all of us. Our commitment to fairness and the truth will be tested. I am confident that we will come out stronger after this," the Energy chief said. — Mark Merueñas/BM, GMA News

----------------------------------------------

RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

NBI starts probe into ERC exec’s death NBI anti-graft division leading the probe into Francisco Villa Jr.’s death and alleged corruption 0 SHARES Share it! Published November 24, 2016, 1:20 PM By Philippine News Agency


Francisco "Jun" Villa (Photo from Charie Villa / Facebook) | mb.com.ph

The National Bureau of Investigation has started its investigation into the death of Energy Regulatory Commission director Francisco Villa Jr. as well as the alleged corruption in the energy regulatory body.

NBI spokesman Ferdinand Lavin declined to provide details apart from saying the NBI Anti-Graft Division is leading the probe and agents have started to talk to some of Villa’s coworkers.

Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered an immediate investigation into the death of Villa, chair of the ERC bidding committee, who committed suicide last November 9 due to alleged pressure from ERC chairman and chief executive officer Jose Vicente Salazar.

In a series of suicide notes, Villa wrote that Salazar wanted him to rig the bidding in favor of preferred companies, including contracts for procurement and hiring of consultants.

Villa also alleged in his suicide notes ERC assistant vice president Luis Morelos for taking part in the rigged selection system.

Villa’s sister, broadcast journalist Charie Villa, also said he was pressured to approve contracts even without undergoing public bidding.


MANILA TIMES - ANALYSIS

Duterte should make an example of ERC in anti-graft drive 0 BY ATTY. DODO DULAY ON NOVEMBER 22, 2016 ANALYSIS


Atty. Dodo Dulay Atty. Dodo Dulay

WHAT drives a man to take his own life? In the case of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Director Francisco “Jun” Villa Jr., it was, in his own words, the unbearable pressure to approve contracts without proper bidding and procedure. The alleged culprit?

None other than his boss, ERC chairman and chief executive officer Jose Vicente B. Salazar, a former justice department undersecretary appointed during the “DaangMatuwid” administration of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

In one of a series of suicide notes, Villa expressed a deep anxiety over reviewing procurement contracts at the electric power industry regulator: “My greatest fear in the bids and awards committee is the AVP by Luis Morelos which the chairman and CEO, Jose Vicente B. Salazar, chose through a rigged selection system. That will be a criminal act.”

“I have fears about my BAC (bids and awards committee) work…Our mistakes may bring on [Commission on Audit] observations and disallowances. Those may affect me financially,” Villa wrote.

READ MORE...

The pressure brought to bear on the late ERC director was corroborated by his sister, veteran journalist Rosario “Charie” Villa who recalled that in the last conversation she had with her brother he revealed that he was being forced to sign rigged contracts which made him miserable.

“It was the morning of Wednesday, the following day when he told me he was being forced to sign some contracts that were not properly bidded [sic]out. Then I heard a bang,” Charie Villa said.

That Jun Villa’s cooperation and consent, as BAC chairman, was indispensable to the approval and awarding of bids at the regulatory agency is not disputed. Even Salazar admitted in a TV interview aired shortly after reports of Villa’s death hit the news, that he trusted Villa so much that he would not sign any paper if it did not bear the latter’s signature.

Is Villa’s crucial signature the reason why his arm was being twisted to favor certain parties?

CREDIBILITY

Regrettably, there are those who cruelly insinuate that the manner of Jun Villa’s death somehow affects his credibility. To our mind, however, the way he died did not diminish but in fact, even bolstered the truth of his words. Jun Villa had no motive to make up a story.

As an ancient poem once said, “Truth sits upon the lips of dying men.” And in Villa’s case, he paid the ultimate price for his convictions–his own life.

Villa’s death brings to light the susceptibility of the government’s procurement process to graft and corruption. How it has become so easy for crooked officials to rig the bidding process, from deals as small as office supplies and furniture costing a few thousand to big-ticket items like military hardware and road projects worth billions of pesos.

P47 B LOST EVERY YEAR TO CORRUPTION

A former budget official has estimated that the government loses some P47billion every year to corruption in the procurement process. And this is a conservative estimate.

A German think tank, the Bertelsmann Foundation, says more than 30 percent of the budget allocated to government projects is lost due to corruption. If we were to base it on the government’s infrastructure spending of P436 billion for CY2015 alone, that would amount to a staggering P130billion lost to corruption.

The passage of the Government Procurement Act (Republic Act 9184)–hailed by the World Bank as “world-class” when it was enacted more than 12 years ago–did not put an end to collusion in public bidding, bid-rigging, bid-fixing, and other anomalies associated with bidding for government contracts for goods, services and consultancies.

Although aimed at bringing about transparency by requiring all public biddings to go through the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) website–the online portal that serves as the primary source of information on government procurement–the procurement law suffers from many loopholes.

TRANSPARENCY LACKING

The Sunlight Foundation, an American transparency NGO, has said: “Despite the introduction of PhilGEPS and the mandate that all public procurement pass through the electronic bulletin system…compliance with reporting requirements is lacking, the information tracked by government entities is incomplete, and the data that is nominally available is subject to a range of barriers to public use.”

“…PhilGEPS does not capture all of the relevant information necessary for third-party oversight, in particular lacking details of the contract management phase, in which there are opportunities for contracts to be manipulated. Furthermore, full access to PhilGEPS is restricted to accredited contractors who have paid a registration fee. It does not provide a way to access bulk data to use for statistical or visual analysis. Instead, to access procurement information one must already know where to look, and must look one tender at a time,” Sunlight added.

The death of Jun Villa also highlights the need for a strong whistleblower law that would protect government employees who report or expose misconduct committed in their agency or by their superiors. Vowing to fight corruption, President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress during his first SONA to pass a whistleblower law to “eradicate the prevalent cultures of fear and silence that have hounded our justice system.” We hope the PDP-Laban-dominated Congress can pass this important legislation during the Duterte administration.

In the meantime, Duterte can use his executive powers to push for more transparency in government by issuing an executive order directing all government agencies to publish all procurement contracts in the PhilGEPS website. This will complement the landmark Freedom of Information (FOI) executive order that Duterte issued less than a month after taking office.

As for Salazar, he should step down from the ERC notwithstanding his fixed term–if he has any delicadeza. That, or take a leave of absence while the Ombudsman or other independent investigative bodies are conducting their probe in order to remove any suspicion that he will use his office to intimidate or influence witnesses, or tamper with records that might be vital to the prosecution of the case against him.

More on the ERC in future columns.


MANILA STANDARD

ERC officials told: Resign: Du30 mulls over filing graft raps against them posted November 22, 2016 at 12:01 am by John Paolo Bencito and Alena Mae Flores

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday demanded the resignation of Energy Regulatory Commission officials after reports of rampant corruption inside the agency.

“They must resign,” Duterte said in a press briefing in Peru before leaving for Manila.

He said he had read the internal and intelligence reports that pointed to anomalies and abuse of position.

“I have options,” he said. “File a case against them all or demand that no money be appropriated. Their budget hearings are up. I can give them nothing.”

Duterte said he will ask Congress to either withhold the ERC’s budget or disband the agency altogether.

READ MORE...

CUTS AND CORRUPTION.

President Rodrigo Duterte, at the Melia Hotel in Lima, Peru, where he attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference, tells a news conference he is demanding the resignation of Energy Regulatory Commission officials after receiving reports of corruption in the body—or his administration will implement cuts in the ERC budget.
He added that cases would be filed against corrupt officials that he did not name.

Duterte’s demand comes after a top official of the agency, ERC Director Francisco Villa Jr., killed himself on November 9 after allegedly being pressured to approve procurement contracts and hire consultants without following proper procedures. He named names in a series of suicide notes.

His sister, broadcaster Rosario Sofia Villa said her brother had told her that ERC contracts were rigged, and being executed before the actual bidding.

COMMISSIONERS REFUSE TO RESIGN

Three ERC commissioners, however, said they would not step down.

“We are one in the decision to stay in the post. Resignation would not be to the best interest of the ERC,” said ERC Commissioner Ina Asirit, speaking for her colleagues Alfredo Non and Gloria Victoria Taruc.

Asirit said that after discussing the concerns among themselves, they all welcome an impartial investigation into Villa’s suicide but asserted that they need to preserve the institution.

Non said they faced a “no-win situation,” where they would look guilty if they resigned, and look like they were clinging to power if they did not.

The commissioners said they would create a vacuum that would affect the agency’s work if they all resigned.

A fourth commissioner, Geronimo Sta. Ana, has not issued a statement.

ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar said he is waiting for Duterte to return from Peru “to give him a fuller picture of the current developments at the ERC.”

“We were informed about the President’s statement made in Lima, Peru regarding a call for the resignation of all ERC officials in the wake of the recent issues confronting the organization,” Salazar said.

“I am now waiting for the President’s return and will immediately seek a meeting with him to give him a fuller picture of the current developments at the ERC. I am confident that the proposed meeting with and briefing for the President would result in clearer directions from him regarding the issues facing the ERC,” he added.

He also assured Duterte that he had the “highest respect for his recent statement” and vowed to take “appropriate actions that would protect the organization.”

Salazar said he has requested the Commission on Audit to look into corruption allegations raised by Villa.

Salazar, appointed in August 2015, has a fixed seven-year term at the ERC while the remaining four commissioners have a five-year fixed term.

RED FLAGS

In his remarks, Duterte said red flags at the agency included questionable appointments, including having too many consultants, and how contracts were awarded.

“They want to spare the humiliation of sitting there without their money? They resign and I will reorganize or rename the agency,” the President said of the top ERC officials.

The Villas thanked Duterte for his efforts to shed light over the suicide.

“We thank the President for taking the first step towards reforms in the power industry, which will benefit consumers and the economy,” the family said in a statement.

“We appeal for your help to set up a helpline for government employees undergoing the same kind of stress and harassment in the work place,” they added.

Senate energy committee chairman Sherwin Gatchalian said his panel could investigate the allegations of corruption based on Villa’s disclosures.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella also said they plan to investigate the reports of corruption.

Cusi said the Energy department and the ERC were “resolute” in finding out the truth behind the allegations and issues raised.

“We need a strong energy regulator and a united energy family. Our strength should be based on the truth. As the leader of the sector, I enjoin everyone to be fair,” Cusi said.

“We need to ensure that ERC personnel are able to recover immediately. They are also affected by the loss of their colleague but their service is needed by our country,” Cusi said.

“I have spoken to the commissioners of the ERC. I am pleased that they too want to get to the bottom of this. I have assured them of the department’s support in carrying out their mandate in protecting electricity consumers,” Cusi said.

“This is a challenge for all of us. Our commitment to fairness and the truth will be tested. I am confident that we will come out stronger after this,” Cusi said.

-------------------------------------

RELATED FROM MALAYA

Duterte threatens ERC overhaul By JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR November 25, 2016

PRESIDENT Duterte has ordered his legal team to look at all available legal remedies to implement an “overhaul and effect fundamental changes” in the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and its management as he reiterated his call for its officials to resign or face a zero budget in 2017 or even abolition.

The President, in his arrival statement from Peru and New Zealand, said he was serious when he warned during the campaign and at the start of his term, that all allegations of corruption shall be dealt with “seriously, severely.”

“In light of the recent developments in the Energy Regulatory Commission, I have directed a comprehensive review of all legal remedies to overhaul and effect fundamental changes in the agency, including the officials,” Duterte said.

He said he is prepared to face head on the ERC officials who have refused to step down.

“I demanded that they all resign. Ayaw ninyo, dali lang iyan. We will abolish the office. I will not grant any single centavo. You can stay there forever. I’ll set up another (agency),” he said.

The President said the ERC is an important body as it handles the petitions on power adjustments and other energy rates.

He said he cannot tolerate corruption in such a body.

“How can I serve the people with a corrupt government? Kagaya ng nangyari sa opisina ninyo. I am not attributing it to anybody. But the problem is we’ve been—Akala ninyo kasi nagbibiro tayo dito. Mas ma-ano pa ako diyan sa mga rebellion, rebellion. Kasi talaga, my desire is to just be at peace with my countrymen, pati sa mga Moro. Corruption ang hindi ko matanggap,” he said.

DUTERTE RESIGN ORDER

The members of the ERC have refused to step down, invoking their fixed terms. They also warned that the operations of the agency may be affected if they vacated their positions.

Duterte’s resign order came on the heels of the suicide of one of the ERC’s directors over alleged corruption activities in the agency including allegedly forcing him to agree to the awarding of contracts without proper bidding or through rigged bidding.

The President warned he would conduct his own audit and start with the ERC officials who refused to resign.

“Ito sila pag hindi ito mag-resign, I will conduct my own audit at idedemanda ko talaga ito lahat in court. I will see to it that they will be, pagka-plunder, then be sure, be sure that I will make it definite that you go to jail with no bail,” Duterte added.

Radio reports said charges have been filed against ERC chair Jose Vicente Salazar and four commissioners over a coal contract with the Manila Electric Company. There were no details available.

Duterte said those working in government should learn to be content with their allowances and salaries instead of making the government their “milking cow.”

He also wants to put an end to the hiring of consultants, which he said are usually “accommodation.” He said some officials in government have more consultants than he.

“Pag wala kang utak, umalis ka diyan. Why do you have so, sayang iyung, consultant dito, sayang. Where’s your brain? Kaya nilagay ka diyan, marunong kang mag-isip. Uubusin niyo iyung pera ng, I will review all, all government corporations...I will limit your ability to acquire consultancy...Those are to the interest of the Republic of the Philippines tapos magsayang kayo ng, I will review how many, maybe I will prohibit everybody from getting consultants,” he added.


SALAZAR

ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar said there is no gag order among ERC officials in connection with the recent suicide of Jose Francisco Villa, its director and the chairman of its bids and awards committee (BAC).

Salazar said all officials of the agency have been instructed to fully cooperate with the ongoing inquiry by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Commission on Audit into allegations made by Villa in his suicide note.

“What I have instructed them not to do is to defend the ERC against allegations at the expense of the reputation and memory of Director Villa,” he said.

“They are, however, free to answer questions and provide information both to the investigators and to media on matters related to allegations against the ERC,” he added.

AVP PROJECT

Earlier, ERC bids committee vice chairman Teofilo G. Arbalate, Jr. clarified that the “AVP project” supposedly referred to in the alleged Villa suicide note “was never awarded to any party and no contract has been signed in connection with it.”

Arbalate explained that the “AVP project” is a proposed audio-visual material intended to help the ERC clarify its role in the power sector and how it performs its function.

He pointed out that the ERC had initially allocated a budget of P300,000 for the project to cover both the creative and production requirements.

“The project went through two biddings both of which failed,” Arbalate explained. Villa chaired both bidding processes.

Arbalate said the first bidding for the P300,000-project failed because no bidder was qualified. The Villa committee also recommended that the second bidding be declared a failure because his committee had not set a clear standard and criteria for determining the rating criteria.

Salazar said the Villa bids committee is concerned with the procurement of goods and services, including office supplies, not power projects.


TRIBUNE

ERC chief wants meet with DU30 Written by PNA Tuesday, 22 November 2016 00:00


Energy Regulatory Commission Jose Vicente Salazar is waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte to return from Peru to seek out a meeting with him. ERC/Released PHILSTAR FILE NOV 21, 2016

Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar has asked to meet with President Duterte, amid allegations of corruption at the commission which had led to the suicide of Planning and Information Service director Francisco Villa Jr.

Salazar yesterday said he is confident the proposed meeting “would result in clearer directions from him regarding the issues facing the ERC.”

He assured that he will take the appropriate actions to protect the commission, part of which is to “immediately probe the allegations made by the late director Jun Villa and our expression of support and full cooperation for the planned inquiry by the Senate committee on energy.”

READ MORE...

Salazar asked the Commission on Audit (CoA) to conduct a thorough investigation on “matters internal to the ERC” raised by Villa in his suicide note, including the corporate identification audiovisual presentation that would help establish the agency’s corporate identity so that the public would know the services it renders to consumers.

According to documents from the ERC, the project had an approved budget of P300,000 that was increased to P490,000 to cover “creative and production aspects.”

The ERC said it has not entered into any contract with the four bidders. It also stressed that the agency of Luis Morelos had not filed a bid.

Villa, in his letter, said his biggest fear was being called out by the CoA on the contents of the AVP “by Luis Morelos which the chairman and CEO Jose Vicente Salazar chose through a rigged selection system.”

Reports said ERC commissioners Alfredo Non, Josefina Asirit and Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc would not resign for the best interest of the commission.

Duterte advised the chairman and commissioners to resign over the death of the director.

He said he will ask Congress to either withhold the budget of the commission or disband it and that cases will be filed against some officials, whom he did not name.

The ERC is an independent regulatory body mandated to protect consumers and promote competitive operations in the electricity market.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Third party to investigate ERC exec’s death By Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 24, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus1 0


VILLA

MANILA, Philippines – Third party investigators will be allowed to unearth the truth in connection with the death of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) director Francisco Jose Villa Jr.

Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar said he has given instructions to ERC officials to restrain themselves from issuing statements in their defense in the wake of the allegations now facing the agency following Villa’s death.

“I have issued this strict instruction based on the principle that we are not to defend our reputation at the expense of the memory of a dear colleague who served our organization well,” he said.

“We have left that task totally in the hands of independent third-party investigators. I appeal to everyone to do the same,” he added.

He cried foul over allegations of being involved in “midnight deals,” saying the bids and awards committee does not deal with permits and approvals for power industry players but only covers procurement of goods and services.

Salazar said the Market Operations Service and Regulatory Operations Service deal with the evaluation of permits and applications from power generators, distribution utilities and transmission grid operator.

“For the record, director Villa was not and has never been involved in the evaluation of applications for permits and approvals of power supply agreements between distribution utilities/electric cooperatives and generation companies,” he said.

“I appointed director Villa as chairman of a bidding committee, the function of which is to procure goods and services, not to evaluate the requirements of power firms. The erroneous insinuation merely proves that there are parties who are more than willing to use this death to suit their own agenda,” he said. – With Janvic Mateo


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