‘Hasty’ franchise processing for Legarda son’s firm under probe

MANILA The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) is now looking into the complaint filed by a civilian group questioning the alleged "hasty" approval of a committee report recommending the grant of a government franchise to a company owned by the son of Senator Loren Legarda.

In a press forum held in Pasig City, Anti-Trapo Movement, Inc. (ATM) founding chair Leon Peralta said the PACC, through a letter dated January 7, acknowledged receipt of their complaint against the senator and some of her staff.

In the same letter, PACC Executive Director Eduardo Bringas informed Peralta that his charges against Legarda were under consideration for proper disposition and appropriate action, in which Bringas did not elaborate.

Peralta lauded the actions of the PACC on their complaint.

The group alleged that Legarda intervened to facilitate the passage of House Bill (HB) No. 8179 by the House of Representatives committee on legislative franchises, which awards a franchise to the Solar Para sa Bayan Corp. (SPBC) owned by Leandro Leviste.

Peralta invoked Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution banning lawmakers from directly or indirectly exhibiting undue interest in government proceedings pertaining to franchise applications.

The same provision mandated that senators and congressmen shall not intervene in any matter before any office of the government for his pecuniary benefit or where he may be called upon to act on account of his office.

We firmly believe that alleged meddling by Sen. Legarda on behalf of her son, of proven true, is an infraction of pertinent mandates of the Constitution specifically provisos on conflict of interest, honesty, and probity in public office, and transparency, Peralta told reporters.

The majority of the domestic power industry players have raised vigorous objections to the measure, saying Leviste's plan to set up solar panel projects across the country was not only viable but could also be potentially detrimental to the electricity generation sector in general.

Peralta also questioned Senator Manny Pacquiao's propriety, saying it was ironic for him to vote in favor of the committee report in utter disregard of the ATM's petition for the conduct of a Senate probe on Leviste's franchise bid.

Most industry players vigorously opposed HB 8179 and slammed the franchise committee's speedy approval of the measure enabling SPBC to set up solar systems in the country.

Moreover, the existing power distributors dismissed as incredible and unreliable Leviste's claim that his company could provide sustainable power to the unserved and undeserved areas in the country through solar panels.

Committee Report No. 659, submitted by the Senate committees on public services and energy, approved HB 8179, which seeks to grant SPBC a franchise to construct, install, establish, operate, and maintain distributable power technologies and minigrid systems throughout the Philippines to improve access to sustainable energy.

The committee report, however, introduced some amendments.

A notable amendment mandates the Department of Energy (DOE), rather than the grantee, to determine the remote and unviable, unserved, and underserved areas.

The report also stated that the franchise shall not affect the duty of the DOE to promote private sector participation in the electrification of remote and unviable, unserved and underserved areas.

It further noted that other qualified third parties, distributed energy resources or microgrid system shall be able to participate in any competitive selection to operate in any remote and unviable, unserved, and underserved areas.

The report provides that the retail rate charged by the grantee to end-users shall be the true cost and shall not be entitled to any government subsidy.

The retail rates shall be made public and transparent.

Senators Legarda, Leila de Lima, and Francis Pangilinan did not sign the committee report.

Legarda's office did not respond to a request for comment as of posting time. (With reports from Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency