Supreme Court junks case vs. 4 ERC ex-commissioners

supreme court

The Supreme Court (SC) has recently dismissed the graft case against four former commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) who were accused of allowing power distributors like the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) to forgo the bidding of its power supply requirements at the public’s detriment.

The SC, through now retired Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., ruled that the Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC), where the case was filed, had no jurisdiction to hear and resolve the complaint filed by the Office of the Ombudsman for graft against former ERC commissioners Josefine Patricia Magpale-Asirit, Alfredo Non, Geronimo Sta. Ana, and Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc.

It made the ruling by granting the petition filed by the four former ERC officials, which sought to annul the orders issued by the Pasig City RTC Branch 155 in September and October 2018, which denied their plea to quash the information against them.

The petitioners sought to reverse the judgment rendered by Presiding Judge Maria Gracia Cadiz-Casaclang for denying their motion to quash the information on grounds that Republic Act 10660 does not give jurisdiction to the RTC over the criminal case, as it must be tried by an RTC branch outside the National Capital Judicial Region.

The high court sided with the petitioners, saying that Section 2 of RA 10660 clearly provides that the RTC has original and exclusive jurisdiction when the information either does not claim any damage to the government or any bribery or alleges damage to the government or bribery arising from the same or closely related transactions or acts in an amount not exceeding Php1 million.

The provision further said that such cases falling within the jurisdiction of the RTC should be tried within a judicial region other than the place where the accused government official holds office.

The case stemmed from the petitioners’ issuances of ERC Resolutions 1 and 13, which postponed the effectivity of the conduct of the competitive selection process (CSP) on all power supply agreements (PSAs).
CSP rules require power distributors to get a minimum of two offers for the supply of electricity before a PSA is awarded, ensuring the smallest amount possible to electricity consumers.
In a ruling issued in May 2019, the SC voided the ERC resolutions and directed the commission to conduct CSP on all PSAs submitted by power distributors by end-June 2015.