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CA halts Suspension Order of Ombudsman

Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson and CEO Agnes VST Devanadera received the Court of Appeals’ (CA) Resolution, penned by Associate Justice Mariflor P. Punzalan Castillo, stopping the suspension of the ERC Commissioners ordered by the Office of the Ombudsman in December 2017.  The CA issued a sixty (60)-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the said suspension.

“The Office of the Ombudsman’s suspension basically jeopardized the ERC per se, and the industry that the ERC regulates which is the electric power industry and the consuming public.  The ERC Commissioners were suspended for re-stating the effectivity of its Resolution on the Competitive Selection Process (CSP), but the CSP is still pending with the Supreme Court and the ERC Commissioners must be accorded with substantial due process.  By substantive due process, it means that the suspension should be based on a just or authorized cause”, ERC Chair Devanadera quoting from the CA’s Resolution.  

The CA on 09 February 2018 issued the Notice of Resolution with Temporary Restraining Order stating that:  “WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, and to avoid serious and irreparable disruption in the operation of the ERC and to prevent adverse repercussions on the power industry as a whole, let a sixty (60)-day Temporary Restraining Order be issued enjoining public respondent Office of the Ombudsman and/or any of its authorized agents or representatives from implementing/executing its September 29, 2017 Decision, conditioned upon the petitioners’ posting of a bond in the amount equivalent to three (3) months of their respective salaries.”  

The CA Resolution further argued that:  “Given the circumstances of the instant case, this Court must look at the big picture and consider the interest of the public, the irreparable injury that it may suffer if a TRO is not issued.  This is because, as pointed out earlier, petitioners are public officials performing important duties and functions pertaining to the power sector.  We hasten to add that what we give importance to and is of utmost concern is not the petitioners themselves but their office, and the public service that would be and currently is being jeopardized by reason of their present predicament.  Here lies the real exigency and urgent necessity which this Court must consider in determining the efficacy of the issuance of the TRO.”

The Office of the Ombudsman was directed to file their opposition/objection to the application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction within ten (10) days from receipt of the CA’s Resolution.  The CA also partially granted the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office of the President’s Motion for Extension of Time to File Comment by giving them an additional fifteen (15)-day period (instead of sixty (60) days) within which to file their comment on the petition for review.

“With the TRO issued by the Court of Appeals, the ERC can now resume with the regular performance of our duties and functions and act on petitions with urgency.  I’m glad that the CA gave weight on the impact of the vacuum of leadership caused by the Ombudsman’s suspension of the ERC Commissioners and considered the welfare of the electric power industry stakeholders, most especially the consuming public who will eventually suffer the consequences of the ERC’s inability to perform its mandate”, ERC Chair Devanadera added.


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