NBI wants graft charges vs ERC officials

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ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 6) — Graft charges have been recommended against three Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) officials and a private contractor in connection with an alleged anomalous transaction that led to the "suicide" of the Commission's bids and awards chairman.

In a recommendation to the Ombudsman, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said ERC Chairman Jose Vicente Salazar, legal service lawyer Prescia Vanessa Reynante-Reynoso, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Vice Chairman Teofilo Arbalate, and FATFREE, Inc. owner Luis Morelos, violated the anti-graft law by not following proper bidding procedures.

The NBI said it was "evident" that FATFREE, Inc. was already chosen to do an audio-visual presentation even before the start of the procurement process.

"Apparently, the bidding for AVP project that was to be undertaken by the ERC-Bids and Awards Committee(BAC) was just to satisfy the requirements in paying the contract price to whom the contract will be awarded," the NBI said.

The report also said FATFREE, Inc. was not qualified as it was only incorporated in 2014, and the project requires at least 10 years of relevant professional experience.

The funds for the project were also not included in the Commission's Annual Procurement Plan for 2015 and 2016.

"The funds to be used in procuring the AVP project will definitely come from other funds earmarked for other purposes," the NBI said.

In November 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered commissioners of the ERC to resign following the death of ERC BAC Chairman Francisco "Jun" Villa Jr. His sister, broadcast journalist Charie Villa, said it was a case of suicide after his brother was pressured to approve contracts without proper bidding.