House energy panel chair wants Ducut to take leave

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

THE head of the House committee on energy on Wednesday advised Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairperson Zenaida Cruz-Ducut to take a leave of absence amid her alleged involvement in the pork barrel controversy.

Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali, energy committee chairperson, said Ducut, a former congresswoman of Pampanga, should spare the administration from the controversy also known as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

"I support the call for her to take a leave of absence siya because how can you run an agency if you are facing complaints? The ERC will be affected. She should take a leave," Umali said.

Malacañang however said taking a leave of absence or resigning from her post is up to Ducut.

Whistleblower Benhur Luy claims Ducut was an alleged agent of PDAF scam mastermind businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. Reports say she demanded a five-percent kickback for projects delivered to Napoles.

Ducut was the second district representative of Pampanga for three terms from 1995 to 2004. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo now occupies the position.

Umali's call comes a week after Ducut snubbed the House energy panel's scheduled hearing on the P4.15-increase per kilowatt hour (kwh) to be imposed by Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the country's biggest power distributor.

The ERC has approved Meralco's proposed staggered billing scheme for the power rate increase until March of next year. Under the scheme, the increase will be P2.41 per kwh in December, P1.21 per kwh in February 2014, and P0.53 per kwh in March 2014.

Umali said the energy committee will move to subpoena Ducut if she fails to attend the continuation of the hearing on January 20 next year.

"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.

Umali said Ducut's presence will help the committee look into whether there is a need to amend existing laws related to electricity rates.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said in a press conference that Congress is ready to review the Electricity Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) if Umali's committee, based on its probe, will recommend it.

"Because of the issue now, if the investigation of the committee will say a review of the Epira is warranted and they have a proposed measure then I do suppose that a review will be made possible this Congress," Gonzales said. (Sunnex)

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