The Manila Times - The Stop-Bongbong Show

4 August 2018

By Jojo Robles | The Manila Times

IT’s about Bongbong Marcos, really. And the struggle to shut down and neutralize reports of massive cheating in the last elections just got real, because the whole shebang has now morphed into the Stop-Bongbong Show.

Reliable sources have told me that the bigwigs of the camp of Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo held emergency meetings at the Veep’s office in New Manila, Quezon City and at the Rockwell condo complex in Makati until late Thursday. The meetings were reportedly called in order to come up with a strategy to counteract the revelations of electoral fraud in the 2016 elections which were being made in the Senate based on two privilege speeches made by Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd.

Robredo’s handlers are apparently in a state of panic because the Senate investigation seems to be leading inexorably to the protest case filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos against Robredo. Which is really strange, because Sotto and the main resource person in this week’s initial hearing, the sensational anti-electoral fraud crusader Glenn Chong, only discussed the alleged fraud committed two years ago in a generic, non-specific manner during the hearing; only known defenders of Robredo in attendance at the chamber like Sen. Franklin Drilon kept bringing up the Marcos protest case.

Those who watched the hearing, which was not reported by mainstream print and broadcast media outlets, will remember how Drilon shamelessly attempted to link Chong to the Marcos camp and his protest against Robredo. Drilon did this by insinuating that Chong got his data from the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (clearly a lie) and by claiming that the lawyer had been engaged as counsel by Marcos (an even bigger lie).

By the way, the Robredo camp was wildly successful in “killing” the story of Chong’s explosive revelations, which were covered by the usual array of reporters, photographers and cameramen assigned to the Senate. Those in charge of this very expensive propaganda campaign were so good at their job that they apparently even “convinced” government station PTV4 not to air the hearing live and the local gatekeepers of popular social media platform Facebook to take down pages that shared the YouTube video of the proceedings posted by the Senate.

But will they be able to stop the coverage of the hearings — or, heaven forbid, the hearings themselves? I understand the second hearing on Sotto’s charges has been scheduled for next week; I guess we’ll find out then.

What’s important to remember is that Robredo and her camp followers have decided that the Sotto hearings are intended in some way to lead to the removal of the vice president — the only remaining Yellow of any political significance — and her replacement with Marcos. There is absolutely no truth to support this belief at the moment, of course.

But my own position is, what alarms the Yellows is always a good thing, never mind if it has factual basis or not. After all, these are the same people who believe that something doesn’t necessarily have to be true — it just has to appear that way.

* * *

The power sector, among other industries, heaved a collective sigh of relief with the removal of former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and his replacement with Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. To industry players, Alvarez’s ouster means they will probably no longer be bothered by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, who in tandem with Alvarez wants to abolish the Energy Regulatory Commission in the guise of protecting consumer rights, among other deleterious things.

It’s true: The noise Zarate made in the past two years, purportedly with the tacit consent of Alvarez, has been interpreted as a not-so-veiled attack on the country’s energy security situation.

For example, Zarate has opposed the building of new power plants, which would solve the problem of lack of reliable and cost-competitive supply. Instead, Zarate and his unidentified bosses have pushed for other suspicious players to enter the sector, who could endanger the all-important, market forces-driven power supply in the country.

In support of Zarate’s power sector initiatives, Alvarez filed a bill in early 2017 to abolish the ERC, and to replace it with a Board of Energy, which will become an attached unit of the Department of Energy. Had Alvarez not been removed as speaker last week, the power industry could have come under the control of favored players, who will be provided with questionable and burdensome contracts and projects that Filipino electricity consumers and taxpayers would be shouldering for many years.

In contrast, the industry has welcomed the assumption of Arroyo to the speakership. They pointed out that Arroyo, as president, had always been working to balance industry profits with consumer rights to cheap, abundant power.

They noted that the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira, or Republic Act 9136) was Arroyo’s brainchild and was signed into law during her term as president. The law is primarily intended to regulate the country’s electricity industry, to promote competition in the market and to protect power consumers from the high costs of electricity.

Arroyo opened up the industry to private sector players and ushered in an era of reform-oriented developments in the sector, notably, the establishment of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) in Luzon and Visayas (and in Mindanao later this year), the interconnection of the Luzon and Visayas grids to the Mindanao grid, the 91 percent electrification of the households, the implementation of prepaid electricity and net metering for consumers with solar panels, reduction of the system loss caps, and the adoption of net settlement surplus, among others.

President Rodrigo Duterte needs a leader in Congress with proven experience in running the economy of the country and who will support his programs in the power industry, among many other industries. Arroyo seems to be that House leader, not Alvarez.