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Matibag, Pacquiao go toe-to-toe

Pacquiao was merely ‘retaliating’ for his ouster from PDP Laban that forced him to use ‘inconsequential’ PROMDI for his presidential ambition



PDP Laban secretary-general Melvin Matibag on Thursday accused Senator Manny Pacquiao of using the Senate budget hearing to push his presidential ambition and to “retaliate” for his ouster from the administration party chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Matibag issued the statement after he was declared out of order and booted out of a Senate hearing on the proposed 2022 budget for the Department of Energy (DoE).

A lawyer who heads the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo), Matibag slammed Pacquiao’s presentation during a sub-committee hearing headed by Senator Win Gatchalian as it tended to paint him (Matibag) as corrupt.

Matibag countered that the corruption claimed by Pacquiao involved private corporations in the energy sector with which TransCo “has never transacted with.”

He bristled at Pacquiao’s use of his photo while talking about his “so-called anti-corruption campaign.”


Political hearing

“Let’s call a spade a spade in this hearing. This is all political. Senator Pacquiao, you already said this before you left for your boxing match abroad. Don’t come clean here,” Matibag said.

Gatchalian asked Matibag to leave the hearing after that comment by the TransCo official.

“This is my committee and you have no right of calling this hearing a political hearing. This is a budget hearing; the senators are entitled to ask policy questions,” Gatchalian admonished Matibag.

“Sorry for that chairman, Attorney Matibag was rude,” Pacquiao seconded.

Later on, Matibag apologized for his temperament in a statement.

Still, he said “Pacquiao and his political allies have been using the Senate as an apparatus to spew out propaganda to paint us black and hide under the cover of parliamentary immunity to make sure they can’t be held accountable for misinformation that they foment.”

Matibag added Pacquiao was seething over his ouster from PDP Laban that forced him to “use an inconsequential and inactive political party in PROMDI for his presidential ambition.”

“I am willing to face any charges that Senator Manny Pacquiao may have against me but in a legal forum where I am allowed to defend myself and not be made a punching bag and be subjected to political persecution by him or his political allies in the Senate,” the TransCo official said.


Go to court

In the same hearing that lasted over seven hours, Energy Secretary and PDP Laban president Alfonso Cusi challenged Pacquiao to bring his accusations against the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) before the courts.

“It may be hard to accept but I hope the accusations can be brought outside the walls of the Senate. If needed, file the charges before the Supreme Court,” Cusi said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has previously advised Pacquiao to file graft charges directly at the Office of the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice if he has sufficient evidence to back up his claims.

In his opening statement, Pacquiao took his sweet time to accuse the DoE of corruption in establishing the IEMOP and the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC), which operates the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

Citing previous reports, Pacquiao said the firms allegedly sought from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) a budget of P835 million in 2019 and P1.033 billion in 2020 for its operations.

Pacquiao also referenced an August 2019 order by the ERC over the P1.7 billion in payments charged to consumers due to the supposedly wrong formula used by EIMOP and PEMC on the line-lost congestion charge.

Cusi brushed aside Pacquiao’s allegations as unfounded, explaining that the transition of the operation of IEMOP was created following Section 30 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which the previous administration failed to do.

According to Cusi, IEMOP has a low capitalization of P7,000 since it is a non-profit and non-stock company that cannot join bids.

Cusi also reiterated that as an independent market watcher, IEMOP does not profit from doing its mandate, adding that it is led by directors that do not participate in the energy industry.


Reduced budget

Pacquiao has been at odds with Cusi. The two lead different groups at PDP Laban.

While Pacquiao is running under the Cebu-based PROMDI, PDP Laban has fielded for president and vice president, respectively, Senators Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa and Christopher “Bong” Go.

The DoE is seeking a P2.13 billion budget for the fiscal year 2022. “We see that the 2021 budget is 5.9 percent lower than the 2020 budget, while our proposed budget for 2022 is 3.2 percent lower than the budget in 2021,” Cusi said.

The decrease in the proposed budget was due to the non-approval of the Information System Strategic Plan (ISSP) and the deletion of the 2021 Congress-introduced increases for EVOSS, Energy Transition, Assessment of the Potential of Waste-to-Energy Technology in the Philippines, and Comprehensive Roadmap for E-Vehicles.

In terms of funding source, 61.8 percent or 1.32 billion pesos is under Fund 101 or the Regular Fund. The remaining 38.2 percent or 812.7 million pesos is under Fund 151 for the Special Account in the General Fund.

Of the total proposed budget, 59 percent or 1.3 billion pesos is allocated for new appropriations, while 41 percent or 872 million pesos is for automatic appropriations.

On a per allotment class, about one billion pesos or 48 percent will be allocated for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses. Personnel Services (PS) accounts for 722 million pesos or 34 percent, while Capital Outlay comprises 379 million pesos or 18 percent.

with Michelle R. Guillang