MANILA,Philippines–While petitioners of the power rate hike expressed “relief” over the 60-day temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court on Monday, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said “we wait for the SC to rule with finality on the power rate hike.”
“The Supreme Court has always been the final arbiter of any case brought before it especially when the issue is of national importance,” Lacierda told reporters.
The TRO stopped Meralco’s implementation of its power rate increase for the next two months.
Lawmakers under the Makabayan partylist had led on seeking TRO from the Supreme Court when the Energy Regulatory Commission appoved Meralco’s P4.15 kilowatt/hour increase which would start this month.
“We thank the Supreme Court for granting the request of petitioners and the people for a TRO as a timely Christmas gift for the people,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares in a separate report.
Asked earlier if Palace felt “dismayed” on TRO, Lacierda answered, saying: “No. Well, a TRO would allow the courts to study the matter because, as you know, the case has been filed already by some petitioners.”
“It will be an opportunity for the courts to look into the legal basis, and I think that’s a recourse that we have always—that people have taken when there’s an issue of national importance. So, if in case one has been issued, let’s just wait… I wouldn’t know yet if a TRO has already been issued. Let’s wait for that.”
Meanwhile, pressed on whether the government will not use its moral persuasion to this kind of increases, Lacierda said that Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima “have committed to conduct an investigation whether there is collusion among the power industry players, so let’s wait for that investigation proper.”
“But also Energy Regulatory Commission, I understand, is also looking into it. So I cannot say anything other than the fact that let’s just wait for the results of the investigation.”
On the review of Malampaya Fund and how it can be used to cushion the effect of the power rate increase, Lacierda said “the study is still being done,” the same also with the use of Presidential Social Fund.
“Once there is a result, we will let you know,” Lacierda added.
Pressed to give a scenario on the suggested Malampaya Fund as power subsidy, Lacierda answered, saying:
“Well, number one, there is a decision by the Supreme Court on the usage of the Malampaya Fund. The Supreme Court has already taken away the provision where it gives discretion on the part of the President to use that fund and limited—and having deleted that, the wording of the PD is to use that, such funds, for development and exploitation of resources.”
“We’re looking into that as to whether can that be applied to cushion the impact on the rate increase, so that’s still being studied right now, considering that it seems to be a construction based on the language of the presidential decree. So we are studying—the lawyers are studying that particular angle,” he added.
Lacierda however said he cannot give any comment on the issue that the said subsidy may liken towards “striking a deal with the Independent Power Producers to subsidize some of their development or construction and in return they will not come up with power increase.”
“I cannot specifically address that particular premise, considering that what they have been tasked to do is to read the decision of the Supreme Court along with the presidential decree. On the discussions with the subsidies and all that, I would not be in a position to answer that kasi ‘yung language ang binabasa rito.”
“We don’t want to… We would like to help but we want to make sure also that it has some constitutional and legal basis, one that would not be disapproved eventually by the Supreme Court, if ever such an action will be taken,” Lacierda added.
Lacierda said that they will immediately inform the public as soon as the review is completed.