Solicitor General Jose Calida was summoned by two House of Representatives committees to appear in a legislative inquiry on the P95.42-billion worth of debts owed by power generators to the government.
According to the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability and Committee on Public Accounts, they have summoned Calida to appear in a March 11 hearing over an ongoing investigation on unclaimed funds of state-owned Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM).
PSALM is the agency tasked by Congress under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 to sell the assets of the defunct National Power Corp.
The House Committees said Calida was summoned to provide the House panels with “pertinent documents,” which include its Motion for Leave to Intervene in a court case concerning the uncollected P14.97 billion and P315.42 million from the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and First Gen Hydro Power Corporation, respectively.
“This move has been prompted by the failure of the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) to attend the joint hearings conducted on Feb. 19 and 20, 2020 despite invitations,” the committees said in a statement.
During the February hearings, Meralco said it would settle its debt to PSALM.
However, Meralco failed to do so because of the motion filed by the OSG.
“Once the OSG withdraws its opposition, the government can collect P15 billion from Meralco,” Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, chairperson of the Committee on Public Accounts and vice chairperson of the Committee on Good Government And Public Accountability, had said.
The case between Meralco and PSALM has been pending with the Supreme Court.
Based on a report submitted to the House panels, South Premiere Power Corp. (SPPC), a subsidiary of San Miguel Global Power Corporation, also owes PSALM some P23.9 billion.
The committees said SPPC is “depriving the country of what it is due,” even if it issued dividends to its investors of P600 million in 2017 and P2 billion in 2018.
The SMC affiliate is contesting the PSALM billing in a 2015 case filed with the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Leyte 3rd District Rep. Vicente Veloso III had slammed the Mandaluyong City RTC for allegedly usurping the exclusive power of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) over disputes involving electricity rates.
The Mandaluyong RTC has prohibited PSALM from terminating its contract with SPPC.
Veloso, chairperson of the Committee on Justice, said the law does not allow courts lower than the Court of Appeals (CA) to meddle in cases involving electricity rates and other power-related issues.
“RTC judges should not entertain such petitions. I will bring up this matter of intervention with the Supreme Court,” Veloso said.
He said his committee has oversight function over the judiciary.
The legal counsel of SPPC had said it filed its complaint with the Mandaluyong court because it is the venue specified in its contract with PSALM for any dispute arising from its Ilijan plant administration contract.
As PSALM’s corporate life is set to expire in 2026, “there is an extreme urgency to collect the remaining billions of pesos in receivables immediately,” the committees said.
“Otherwise, the burden from its remaining obligations would unfairly be assumed by the government and, ultimately and unfortunately, be passed on to the public,” it added.
PSALM has also yet to collect receivables from Northern Renewables Generation Corp. with P4.6 billion; Filinvest Development Corp. (FDC) Misamis Power Corp. with P2.6 billion; and FDC Utilities, Inc. with P1.2 billion.
The other companies with financial obligations are the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines with P8 billion; Good Friends Hydropower Resources Corp. with P1.2 billion; and the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines with P548 million./Stacy Ang