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One For You, Two For Me

One For You, Two For Me
Ronald Roy  May 21, 2008 

          At 10am one chilly February day last year, I went to the Meralco building on Ortigas Avenue for a social call on Meralco President Chito Francisco.  Passing across the spacious and high-ceilinged lobby made me shiver, as if being blown on the face by a Siberian wind.  I approached a janitor working a floor polisher and asked why the air conditioning was full-blast, considering that the lobby, completely without furniture, did not appear meant to receive visitors.  He replied, “It’s like this everyday, sir.  The aircon works eight to ten hours daily.  Besides, sir, it shouldn’t bother you because we own the electricity!”

          On my way to the elevator, I asked a security officer in a barong the same query.  He said, “Sir, it’s management’s decision to use whatever they own.  There is nobody who questions your household’s power consumption, is there?”  I was so appalled I lost my desire to say hello to Chito Francisco, feeling that I would’ve intemperately called to task his company’s ostentatious and wasteful use of electricity while we all reeled under a crisis, and surely I would’ve done something much worse if I had known they were already billing their innocent customers for their obscene and profligate comforts.  And no amount of technical exegesis would’ve then appeased me.

          On my way out of the building, Christian Monsod got off his car to greet me, but I just waived back saying I was in a hurry. I was too angry to even be cordial to a personal friend of long standing, someone who had chosen me as best man for his wedding. And now, Chris should realize that Meralco defenders, himself included, are in deep s_ _ _t whether they like it or not.

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          Well, it turns out the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) allows all power franchises like Meralco to charge 1% of its total sales for their own consumption, hence, their constant justification: “It’s all above board. We always follow the law, global practices and ERC’s approvals.” Cut the bull, guys! The rigors of any law, regulation or approval must yield to the general welfare, particularly in the case of public utilities.  Haven’t you ever heard of the adage SALUS POPULI EST SUPREMA LEX (the welfare of the people is the supreme law)?  That precept is the driving force of sovereignty, so you’re not supposed to mess with a people’s interests.  Otherwise, revolution will stare you in the face!

          Indeed, it is the nature of public utilities that 1% can run in the hundred millions of grossly immoral and unlawful profits for franchises, an idea that utility operators however don’t find unconscionable because “it’s only 1%.”   That’s why GSIS president Winston Garcia’s main thrust is to require Meralco to conform to two norms of equity, namely, transparency and accountability in the unlimited scope of profitable transactions between Meralco and itself, not only on the product of power, but also on cables, meters, transformers and other items of equipment.  Yes, consumers avidly applaud Garcia’s bold initiatives.  They see government as winning the battle for proxies against Meralco.  And what about winning the war for management control and ownership?  Ahh, that too!

          If we are to expect meaningful changes in our lives, ideally neither side deserves to win the war because both are perceived as ravenous vultures hovering over hapless consumers.  However, since Gloria’s group is more evil, it is expected to win with unlimited resources.  She has indeed cleverly followed a game plan. She has reiterated her interest in lowering power rates, but not in blocking GSIS’s objective of effecting management changes in Meralco.  Hmm, Gloria’s typical tactic not to leave her hand caught in the cookie jar is now at work, but, then again, this is one perfect instance where she would naturally be involved in unlawful acquisitions, such as allegedly through Cebu-based crony groups like the Aboitiz, Garcia and Alcantara families, not only in the power industry but also in all other public utilities operating within their inter-related business empires.

          I predict an eventual sweeping control by GMA’s formidable network of crony organizations over all public utilities, and I cite the case of Mike Defensor’s alleged assumption of a Board seat in Petron, as an example. Perhaps it’s too early to jump into conclusions, but given Gloria’s track record of dishonesty, I’d be a fool to turn a blind eye.

          Truly, we must be wary of their every move as we have once too often been tricked.  I feel I cannot now be blamed for becoming a cynical observer of passing events.  In fact, I can almost predict both sides will first scale down all those atrocious billing charges, then will settle (clandestinely?) ownership and management control issues, as follows. GMA: “Let it be clear. One for you, two for me.  Agreed?” Meralco: “A…a…agreed.” What greed!!

          Apropos, Augusto Sales of Sta. Cruz, Manila asks if both sides can be trusted to thresh out the intricate issues of the power industry, as well as other public utilities, to the satisfaction of all concerned, the consuming publics in particular, and if not, what the best solution is.  Well, Tito, who will admit being a glutton? Raking in unwarranted profits in a public utility is an unpardonable form of corruption, but the immensity of the loot is much too tempting to resist, especially for a self-perpetuating power group like Gloria’s. Consequently, expect a quiet deal to be transacted, but not to the satisfaction of the consumers-at-large, who, in the nature of tyrannies, are the natural whipping boys. The way I see it, the only solution is a civilian-military takeover of the government, as I have always advocated.

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          You can rest assured, #1515, His Excellency, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, will not go to jail, will be acquitted, and will be hailed as a righteous defender of those guest relations officers whom Mr. Jose Miguel Arroyo had invited to Malacañang to liven up his birthday bash sometime back.  Through this travail of political harassment, Arch. Cruz has displayed the highest order of maturity and poise, and the Palace attack dog named Raul Gonzalez should start asking himself if the public shame he has drawn to himself by being insolent to a man of God is worth all the expensive dog food he gets from his masters’ hands.

          At the same time, we hail Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Angel Lagdameo for lending total support to the embattled Archbishop It is hoped that the CBCP’s position here rubs off on some Catholic priests prominently identified as Palace lap dogs.  Yes, it is a canine world that surrounds Gov. Joey Salceda’s idea of a “lucky bitch.” Gloria and Mike have attack dogs and lap dogs of which one, is a rabid (I don’t mean foaming at the mouth) GMA-admirer and disrespectful Gonzales-basher, Fr. Bel San Luis.

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          What?! Retired Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has been appointed peace process adviser? Ha ha ha, what a laugh!  Remember, #2114, there’s only one way to understand the inveterate liar that GMA is: Never trust her words and actions. She says she’s sorry when she’s not; she’ll promise clean elections when she won’t; she’ll say tightening the belt is the call of the times, but she’ll loosen hers and those of kith and kin. So, it’s not surprising the former Chief of Staff, still the suspected architect of human rights violations, should be shown up by her as a man of peace. Mandirigma’s Tito Osias believes his appointment is GMA’s veiled declaration of war on Filipinos.

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