Make ‘Ilonggopoly’ accountable

So, what you're telling me, is that the music is about to stop, and we're going to be left holding the biggest bag of odorous excrement ever assembled in the history of capitalism. —Margin Call  

If it sounds like an old, familiar leftist rhetoric, it’s because it is.

Quite sadly, it also still rings undeniably true.

Tao ang tunay na lumilikha ng yaman.

There’s just no shaking this off: People – not money or capital -- are the inexhaustible wealth creators.

They both produce and consume; hence, they are the only accounting entry found on both sides of the human resource balance sheet.

All other so-called factors of production are mere capitalist contraptions, right comrade?

And dignity-loving people should resent such notion, dismiss the idea that reduces them to mere components or moving parts of a super-assembly line.

They are living, breathing, thinking fortune factories, stupid!

 Therefore, let no old tycoon with his vast, vile wealth or young taipan with his fast, filthy fortune forget this.       

They have to reckon their responsibility to the rest of society –eventually, inevitably, unavoidably.    

American robber barons at least did not have the illusion that hard work alone gave them their billions -- the money came from the little people.

Their commercial excess, industrial overstretch gave birth to anti-trust laws that require publicly-listed companies to be owned by small stockholders whose income come from money paid by consumers who purchase their products or services. They must also explain how they spend their money.

The Philippine Competition Commission, the enforcer of anti-trust laws in the country. encourages the public to report anti-competitive corporate behavior and stop companies from taking advantage of the health crisis through price fixing and other abusive practices.

PCC Enforcement Office director Orlando P. Polinar was reported as saying he also expects more voluntary compliance with competition rules from the private sector.

“Firms should not use the Covid-19 pandemic as a pretext to engage in practices that will undermine market competition and take advantage of consumers who also continue to suffer from financial challenges,” he was quoted as saying.

Thus, companies whose business is imbued with public interest must be accountable not only to their biggest but also their smallest shareholders, as well as to their customers.

For most companies, this must be an ordinary or regular course – for some, the hazards -- of doing business.

But this must be a matter of absolute compliance for the old oligarchs who monopolize the distribution of electricity service to residential, business, industrial power users in Iloilo City after Congress refused to renew their congressional franchise.

Much had been written about how the Cacho-owned Panay Electric Co.  after it became the subject of the complaint of thousands of its customers, prompting the city’s legislative body to formally request Congress not renew anymore its franchise that expired in January 2019.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives granted the franchise to another company, More Electric and Power Corp.  in recognition of the consumers’ complaint endorsed by their own representatives in the City Council.

After a year since losing its franchise, PECO and its owners are being made to account by the city’s consumers led by civic groups. This, following the discovery of evidence of the way they spent the company’s money allegedly for the personal benefit of their owners and managers, to the detriment of consumers who had to pay what was billed as one of the highest electricity rates in the country for two decades.

Ilonggo consumers were outraged when a transport group concluded  from its own investigation of vehicle registration records in the local Land Transportation Office .that the utility firm allegedly diverted funds allotted for service vehicles that were supposed to be spent on  maintenance trips of its technical employees to check or repair faulty electricity distribution wires or equipment. The money was used instead allegedly to buy a luxury car for the company’s chief executive officer, Luis Miguel Cacho.

Transport groups Western Visayas Transport Cooperative and the Iloilo City Loop Alliance of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association begged  authorities to investigate documents showing that the head of the clan allegedly used company money for his personal luxury by sacrificing money devoted to service the needs of the utility’s customers.

“If true, it is a clear case of a deceitful transaction which involves the money of the electric consumers,” said officials of the two Ilonggo transport groups in recent media reports.

“Buying a BMW midsize sedan for personal use by its president cannot be considered economically efficient, but rather, an abusive use of customers’ money, (it is) they who will eventually pay for it through distribution rates of PECO,” leaders of the two Iloilo transport groups noted.

Of course, PECO and the clan insisted there was nothing wrong with Luis Miguel acquiring ownership of the BMW that PECO bought from funds that the Energy Regulatory Commission had authorized to be spent for service vehicles.

All expenditures of companies like PECO need approval by regulatory authorities because consumers pay for them through their monthly bills.

Luis Miguel, the clan patriarch, had earlier been the subject of an expose by Ilonggo public interest lawyer Zafiro Lauron about the alleged registration in 2000 of three offshore companies in the Bahamas that shared the same address as the offshore companies of the world’s rich and infamous, including top money launderers.

PECO is also under scrutiny after the new utility, MORE Power, started massive preventive maintenance work on the city’s five electricity substations serving each of the city’s districts to prevent widespread  damage to the city’s electricity distribution network that could result in a total shutdown of power service for its  almost 100,000 residential. commercial, and industrial consumers.

MORE Power had to admit that it inherited a “rotting, decrepit” distribution system from PECO and thus was forced to cut electricity service to the city by 13 hours at the most to repair or upgrade equipment such as transformers and high-voltage wires in the substations.

PECO claimed the power outages were a result of mistakes made by MORE Power in the operation of the distribution system;  thus,  it should be allowed to run the distribution business in Iloilo City again.

The ERC would eventually decide if PECO, indeed, is telling the truth in defense of the way it managed the city electricity distribution system for almost 100 years.

If the allegations against PECO were proven true, however, utilities  and their owners would be forced to be always transparent and accountable in all their dealings.  

Sounds reasonable, don’t you think?

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause and pray, people.