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Duterte dismisses ERC chief

MANILA --- The head of the country’s Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) was ordered dismissed from service by President Rodrigo Duterte following charges of misconduct, neglect of duty, and other anomalies filed against him. ERC chairman and chief executive officer Jose Vicente Salazar was ordered dismissed after being found “guilty of two counts of simple misconduct and one count of grave misconduct,” said an order dated October 6, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea. A copy of the order was obtained Monday. Salazar, who is also an electrical engineer by profession, hails from Legazpi City. He is an alumnus of the Philippine Science High School and took his laws studies at the Ateneo de Manila University. He was admitted to the Bar on May 11, 1999. He became the youngest president of the prestigious Integrated Bar of the Philippines, succeeding fellow Bicolano lawyer Jose Anselmo Cadiz. He was appointed ERC Chair by then Pres. Noynoy Aquino. The dismissal order said Salazar committed “serious dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, and grave misconduct.” It said Salazar was guilty of grave misconduct after flouting bidding procedures over an audio-visual presentation project. He did this by taking measures to ensure a production house he favored, Fatfree Inc., would get the project even before the procurement process could be observed. “All elements of corruption, clear intent to violate the law, and flagrant disregard of established rule have been sufficiently demonstrated,” said the dismissal order. The order also said found Salazar “unilaterally issuing orders, resolutions, and letters pertaining to the renewal of seven Electric Power Purchase Agreements.” He was also found to have appointed ERC officers without the approval of the commissioners. These two acts constitute “simple misconduct,” the order read. Salazar was accused of anomaly by ERC director Francisco Jose “Jun” Villa Jr. who committed suicide in November 2016. The sister of Villa, veteran broadcaster Charie Villa, earlier said her brother died by suicide after he was pressured to approve contracts without proper bidding. “Jun can rest in peace now,” Villa said in a statement Monday. The administrative charges against Salazar include gross insubordination, violations of the Government Procurement Reform Act, Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, among others. Salazar was placed under preventive suspension by Malacañang in May 2017, which was extended in August for four more months. He has denied all charges against him saying that several influential individuals who had vested interests in the energy sector were ganging up on him. ERC was created under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 to establish a regulatory agency independent of politics and free from any dominating by the administration. As a commission, it was supposed to be a ‘purely independent regulatory body, its Chairman and Commissioners beyond the scope of the President’s Office’s disciplinary jurisdiction.

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