MANILA, Philippines - An anti-corruption group has started laying the groundwork for a class suit to be filed against Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) for allegedly overcharging its consumers.
This developed as the utility firm's employees denounced what they called a takeover attempt by the government on the private power utility firm.
In an interview on dzBB radio, Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), said his group is leading a drive to organize evidence that would be used in filing a class suit against Meralco.
"Siguradong maraming magvo-volunteer maging complainant. Naghahanap kami ngayon ng certified public accountants. Ang bills binayaran nila kailangan maayos ang accountants (We are certain many Meralco customers will be interested in filing the class suit. So we need CPAs
right now to handle the documentary evidence, including the bills)," Jimenez said.
"We will put a period to all these things by filing a class suit against Meralco," he added.
Jimenez did not give other details of the planned class suit, other than that it will involve a "big amount" in refunds that the complainants will demand from Meralco.
He also hinted at "legal strategies" for the class suit, including setting up "centerpoints" where disgruntled Meralco customers can bring their bills and other "evidence" of overcharging.
Once the VACC finishes collecting and processing the evidence and files a class suit, Jimenez said it will make the evidence available to investigating agencies.
As this developed, Meralco employees put up full-page ads on Metro Manila newspapers Wednesday denouncing what they called was an attempt to take over Meralco using "unfounded" controversies. The advertisement, however, did not identify those behind the takeover.
The ads claimed 6,000 concerned Meralco employees signed the advertisement.
"We take exception to the baseless accusations by the parties interested in taking over Meralco and/or pushing their personal agenda without concern for customer service and the public responsibility of a utility company like Meralco," the ad stated.
Also, it said financial documents will be made available for stockholders to scrutinize at Meralco offices. It noted that Meralco's corporate governance policies and practices have received awards and are recognized as benchmarks among publicly listed companies.
The employees said almost 80% of the electricity bill paid by customers is related to generation and transmission. Of the remaining 20%, 12.4% goes to Meralco and the rest goes to taxes and charges paid to government.
"We vehemently reject and strongly object to any attempt by any group to take over the management of your company especially this latest one using the media and unfounded controversies to mislead the public. Their irresponsible actions just create trouble with all their
confusing and confused requests and accusations," the ad stated.
"We wish to continue serving you with even more dedication and higher quality of service. With our knowledge of and full malasakit (care) for the company and its operations we reject in the strongest terms any attempt by any individual or any group to take over the management of the company in whatever form such will take," it added.
Among those who signed the ad were Emilio Diokno, president of First Line Association of Meralco Supervisory Employees (Flames); Aurelio Ferma, president of Meralco Retirees Association; Mayo Jonel Santos, president of Association of Meralco Engineering Technicians;
Aniano Cabiling, president of Meralco Christian Fellowship; Michael dela Torre, president of Meralco Employees Worker Association; Eusebio Gonzales, president of Meralco Association of Cadet Engineers; Mario Christopher Yap, chapter head of Couples for Christ Meralco chapter;
Manuel Panagsagan, president of Meralco mini pastoral council; and Merle Martinez, Meralco Dependents Livelihood Multipurpose Cooperative. - GMANews.TV