26 March 2004

The Delay and the Secrecy

I do not use to be happy about the misfortune of others, but when I heard over the radio that the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) Munoz branch in Quezon City was just held up by ten armed bandits in ten minutes flat, and was able to haul off a still-undisclosed amount of loot, I somehow had a warm feeling of satisfaction. This is bad. I am getting corrupted.

This ill-feeling towards MERALCO stems from the fact that after the Supreme Court has ordered the company to return a 30-billion-peso refund for overcharges, which involve commercial and industrial customers, I have yet to receive my own refund. The refund started last year, after 3 stratified payback schemes based on monthly electric consumption. I fall on the 500kW bracket and it is already April and I am still waiting. Meanwhile, I have noticed that inspite of my best efforts to cut down my power consumption (I seldom watch TV, my ref is turned off most of the time, my aircon has the best EFR rating and is turned off 12hrs daily, etc.), my monthly bill has significantly increased from P2,500 (last year) to P4,800 (this year) monthly. I really long to feel the benefits of my long-overdue refund which I think must amount to more than P2,000.

I ask MERALCO:Why the delay in the refunds?

As if that was not enough, now comes the news that the other Lopez-owned company, Maynilad, has just been granted by the Arroyo government a compromise settlement to settle P19B pesos in debts. Under the agreement, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) relieved Benpres Holdings Corporation, the Lopez holding company, from its commitment to guarantee at least $47M in Maynilad debts in case of default.

I am just perplexed how the government is going to do that in the face of financial and economic problems like this and this. As the Sassy Lawyer would remark, "Well, if it were Gloria's personal funds, I couldn't care less. But these are public funds. Our money." Also adding insult to this current injury is the fact that consumers are still waiting for 6.4 billion pesos that Maynilad illegally collected from them in the last three years. This is still a pending case up to now.

Is the settlement a "sweetheart deal" and a "bailout" in exchange for political support of the Lopezes for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the elections??? It is, according to the opposition who has creatively molded the Maynilad issue as a campaign weapon against GMA.

But before common Filipinos like me can get a clear view of the details of the proposed rehabilitation of Maynilad by the government, a Quezon City regional trial court had just ordered the sealing the proposed rehabilitation program, emphasizing that secrecy should be maintained until the creditors have agreed to the proposal and regulators have approved it.

I ask MAYNILAD: Why the secrecy?

Delays and secrets. A legacy of overcollecting bills from consumers. Shady deals and compromises.

How long can the Filipino patience handle these blatant hoodwinking activities?

CREDITS: News reports courtesy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and ABS-CBN News

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