Tuesday, January 11, 2011

DOE launches own probe into power coop bribery

The Department of Energy has launched its own investigation into the bribery case involving Ilolilo Electric Cooperative III (Ileco III) and the sale of a Panay power plant, the results of which will be given to the Commission on Appointments (CA).

The powerful bicameral commission has been waiting for results of the re-investigation into the bribery case ordered by Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, prompting Iloilo Rep. and CA member Ferjenel Biron to say this would be taken into consideration when the 15th Congress resumes sessions on Jan. 17 in the confirmation hearings on Almendras' appointment.

[Energy Secretary Jose Rene] Almendras said in a statement Tuesday a panel, composed of Energy undersecretaries Loreta Ayson, Jay Layug, and Josefina Patricia Asirit, was already evaluating reports crafted by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) on the bribery case and the power plant that was supposedly sold under anomalous conditions.

"Let me reiterate these two issues occurred prior to my assumption to office. However, I have taken steps to re-investigate the matters," Almendras said.

Measures have been taken to ensure a comprehensive review of the 146-megawatt Panay power plant, the energy secretary said.

PSALM awarded the contract to Salcon Power Corp. — now SPC Power Corp.

Biron said the transaction was allegedly “anomalous and fraudulent" as the power plant was sold for $5 million when the National Power Corp. gave it a $30-million valuation.

According to a report by national daily Manila Standard Today, Almendras' confirmation as energy secretary “hangs in the balance following the continuing objections of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Sergio OsmeƱa III."

The newspaper was citing Biron as its source who said he questioned how Almendras handled a “’fraudulent’ power plant-related issue that spared a Liberal [Party] governor and instead penalized a governor from the opposition Lakas-Kampi-CMD."

Almendras, who was then NEA chairman, approved a report declaring the power deal between Ileco III and Artech Power Corp. as tainted by graft and the recommendation that the contract be voided.

The then NEA chairman also approved recommendations to fire retired Judge Mateo Baldoza, the Ileco III president who had admitted accepting P150,000 in bribes from then Gov. Neil Tupas Sr. in relation to the power agreement, be fired.

“My office has received the required reports from the concerned agencies within the period I prescribed. Currently, my office is preparing the transmittal of these reports for submission to the Commission on Appointments when it reconvenes," Almendras said.

The investigating panel is also set to submit a copy of the report to members of Congress as part of the documentary requirements for the confirmation of Almendras by the [bicameral] Commission on Appointments.

Almendras said the bribery case went through the process as prescribed in the "New Administrative Rules of Procedures of the NEA and its Administrative Committee (NEA Rules)" approved by the NEA Board on October 28, 2005.

"In this case, the incident arose on April 21, 2009 and the entire process as outlined in the NEA Rules commenced on May 29, 2009. My role was limited to the confirmation of the findings as submitted before the NEA Board," Almendras said.

Almendras said the NEA Board was not in a position to pass judgment on individuals not under its jurisdiction, with its authority being limited to NEA registered electric cooperatives and its employees. Thus, only Ileco III and its officials were sanctioned. — MRT/VS, GMANews.TV

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