by Mentong Tiu Laurel
FIFTEEN years ago, in 1999 at a Max restaurant in downtown Manila where a media Kapihan was being held, I chanced upon then Congressman Butch Abad walking into another function room where a Liberal Party caucus was being held. Linggoy alcuaz was with me and Butz Aquino somewhere in the background. Spontaneously, I screamed at fellow activist Abad, “P.I.M., akala ko para sa Masa tayo, bakit mo tinutulak mo ang Omnibus Power Bill (OMB)?” The OMB was the precursor for the Epira (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) of 2001 which is now throwing the national economy and the lives of 100 million Filipinos in deep shit.
After P4.15/kWh, Another P8/kWh Hike
Meralco, ERC (Energy Regulatory commission), WESM and PEMC (Wholesale Electricity Spot Marcket and Philippine Electricity Market Corporation), and the IPPA (Independent Power Producers Association) sent the country into an uproar in December 2013 when it hiked power rates by P 4.15/kWh pushing Meralco rates to P 16.50/kWh—the highest in the World! That was stopped by a TRO from the Supreme Court and thanks only to citizens action, but that temporary reprieve isn’t even over and Meralco is now scheduling to hike rates by another P 8/kWh pushing prices to P24.50/kWh if this amok of the power privatization system is not stopped and reversed.
Only Manila Standard carried the report from Alena Mae S. Flores last Jan. 10, reporting that Meralco said “…this would be felt yet because of the SC’s 60-day restraining order…” which means all hell will break loose after the TRO.
Butch Abad is quoted to say, “When Meralco announced the P4.15 per kilowatt hour, the negative reaction was already huge. How much more with this new hike announcement.” This is why I flashed back to that day in 1999 when I cursed Abad and his OMB. The curse is now upon us all and the task is to un-hex our nation of this curse of privatization, yet it is a task I doubt the country knows how to unravel until a violent explosion shreds it asunder.
Corrupt Elite Conspiracy
The Epira was born in the orgy of pathological profit and power seekers’ privatizations in the World and in Filipino society—the IMF-World Bank, the Philippine feudal-corporate elite, its politicians of almost all stripes, its mendicant intelligentsia.
Epira was passed by Congress after then Speaker Soy Belmonte’s office distributed P500K payola to all signing “sow-lons” and P10-M “O Ilaw” projects from Gloria M. Arroyo while the latter got US$ 800-M standby loans from the World Bank to sign it into law.
With sovereign guanratees, bankrupt U.S. companies like Mirant joined the Epira IPPs in and raked in billions. This was one of the motives behind Edsa Dos, to oust the anti-sovereign guarantee Estrada. The corrupt intelligentsia is integral to the selling of the Epira, such Randy David in his Inquirer pieces arguing that President BS Aquino can do nothing about the ERC’s policies; to which I wrote: ”. “If a corrupt congress and president passed Epira into law, a “Daang Matuwid” president can repeal it through a Congress which he coaxed to oust a Supreme Court justice.”
In 2004 in a debate on presidential candidates organized by Fr. Ed dela Torre at the Bahay Kalinaw, Arroyo factotum Rigoberto Tiglao threw a tantrum to disrupt my exposition on the Epira which would indict the Arroyo candidacy. I am glad Tiglao is now lambasting the Epira.
Silent Black Nazarene
If the Black Nazarene, which has just been dusted and taken out of its parking slot for the recent procession, would speak what would it say about the country’s exorbitant power cost. Would it perform a miracle and instruct the Catholic hierarchy to speak on behalf of the suffering poor and demand the lowering of rates, take profit out of the equation (as Chirst did at the Temple) and lash the whip at the money monsters?
Cardinal Tagle had a field day during the procession pontificating against the politicians and their corruption—but what about the corruption of the oligarchs? This is why the Black Nazarene will never speak, as the Church cannot turn against their mundane benefactors.
Our very good Bishop Tobias at a symposium organized by KME (Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya) of economist Jimmie Regalario, enthusiastically agreed with our praise of SC Justice Reynato Puno’s 2003 decision prohibiting Meralco from passing its income tax on to consumers, causing a P 30-B refund.
Tobias wanted to protest the high rates, but when ILPI’s (Iligan Light) Jojo Borja mentioned that Manny Pangilinan is one of the major benefactors of the Church the good Bishop piped down. Let’s be truthful, in all of history the Vatican has always stood beside the oligarchs while distracting the masses with preaching of justice for the poor the same way Pope Francis is doing now.
Beware the “Trolls”
“Trolls” on the Internet are very well known to the social media now. They are the planted Twitters and Facebook participants in discussed, often paid for by interests behind the scenes, to disrupt certain lines of thought or promote some misinformation or disinformation. The “trolls” also exist in real life, in NGOs and the likes. In ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) hearings there are “trolls” sent in to pose as consumer champions and advocates who are actually the fifth column of Meralco, the ERC and the IPP, the WESM (Wholesale Electricity Sport Market).
One has been caught with a P5-million “education on Epira” contract with the WESM.
The “trolls” in real life and in social media have taken a heavy toll on the Filipino people’s clear-headedness, muddling issues and waylaying the best intentions of the public. The Epira was passed on the lies of the trolls that “competition will bring down power rates”, just like the anti-pork core group of Peachy Bretaña, Inday Varona, Junep Ocampo, et al used the “Million Man March” hypes supported by oligarch’s media ABS-CBN, TV5, Inquirer, Star et al. The anti-pork campaign has just enhanced the “super pork” of BS Aquino’s DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) fund and the executive prerogatives over “pork” which Congress now has to submit to BS Aquino for release to their projects.
While the power struggle between oligarchs and the people are stalemated with the TRO, mainstream media of the oligarchs is spewing threats from the IPPs that “power brownouts” may ensue from the delay in approving the exorbitant rates. That’s blackmail that was inevitable when the power industry was placed in the hands of profit-seeking, greedy owners. The nation and the economy is being taken hostage for the ransom of price gouging rates. It’s a choice between being killed by high power rates or now power at all. There should be a better choice, that re-nationalizing or socializing the power sector, which won’t happen without ousting BS Aquino and company.
The Magdalo’s Senator Trillanes lashed out at the chief power oligarch in Meralco, Manny Pangilinan as “walang kabusugan” (insatiable) and proposed to use the Malampaya Fund to cushion consumers’ bill, but with another P 8/kWh increase that fund will run out fast and sacrifices energy development that should bring lower cost power in the long run. The Makabayan Coalition led by Colmenares’ group went to the SC and got the TRO, but the long run program of this group may hold the only solution, revolution—unless the AFP’s young officers can fast track developments as in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez.
(Watch “Power Struggle 2014” with, GNN Destiny Cable Channel 8, Skycable Channel 213, www.gnntv-asia.com Sat., 8 p.m. and replay Sun., 8 a.m.; tune to 1098AM, Tues. to Fri. 5pm; ; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com; and text reactions to 0923-4095739)