Doubly tough for PECO

"Senator Poe is certain to be weighing her options on this issue."


The controversial Iloilo City utility firm Panay Electric Co. faces tough grilling at the Senate when survey leader Senator Grace Poe convenes today, Monday, the Senate Committee on Public Services. This is to decide whether or not the company deserves to be granted a fresh 25-year legislative franchise.

Poe, running as an independent candidate seeking a second six-year term in the upcoming May elections, is certain to be weighing her options carefully on PECO’s case. This follows the overwhelming vote at the House of Representatives two weeks ago to refuse the 90-year-old monopoly a new franchise, and to grant the franchise instead to a More Minerals Corp., a utility firm owned by businessman Enrique “Ricky” Razon.

Early this year when she flew to Iloilo City for hearings on the TRAIN bill, an irate Poe may have already prejudged the case when she reportedly declared that she was inclined to deny PECO its franchise renewal application because of the tons of consumer complaints against the company for its record of bad service and its penchant for over-billing Iloilo City residents. 

Poe was in Iloilo City in May when the over-billing complaint against PECO reached a crescendo. The Iloilo City Council had just passed a resolution urging the National Government to deny its franchise renewal following an intervention by the Energy Regulatory Commission to resolve complaints from Iloilo City households over monthly bills that rose by as much as 1,000 percent. PECO quickly blamed this on its new metering system that recomputed and re-billed from its customers’ uncollected and unbilled previous consumption.

The same complaints that faced Poe in Iloilo City, meanwhile, also arrived at the House Committee on Legislative Franchises chaired by Rep. Josef Francis Alvarez, who eventually intimated that what sealed PECO’s fate at the House were financial statements from PECO itself. These showed that while the company was facing complaints of over-billing, it posted successive years of net profits amounting to hundreds of millions of pesos—P198.27 million in 2014, P127.92 million in 2015, P139.26 million in 2015 and P191.1 million in 2016. 

These profits occurred, Alvarez noted, despite a directive from the ERC itself to refund P631 million in over-billings to Iloilo residents in 2014.

Poe and her fellow senators in the Senate committee on public services cannot ignore the political implications of the issues raised by Iloilo City residents and city officials against PECO, said Iloilo City Councilor Joshua Alim, one of those leading the campaign against PECO. No sane politician can ignore Iloilo City and Iloilo province with more than 1.4 million voters in an election year. 

* * *

Political analyst Ed Malay underscores the crucial role the social media will play in the 2019 polls.

According to Malay, who also serves as the executive director of The Center, an independent polling firm, social media sites remain as viable tools of communications that can be employed by candidates in the coming elections.

Results of his recent survey rank Facebook as the preferred social media site by registered voters with ages from 18 to 65 years old with 52 percent of those surveyed saying they are glued to Facebook, 29 percent prefer Instagram and 19 percent taking to Twitter. 

Of these, Malay said 89 percent said they use these sites one at a time, while 11 percent said they use it simultaneously. 

Results of the survey further bare that some 45 percent of those surveyed said they use Facebook daily, 33 percent said they log on to Facebook weekly and 17 percent said they use it monthly. 

Malay says that social media sites can be a great influencer for the coming polls as 38 percent of those surveyed said they use social media for three hours or more a day. What will be a challenge for political strategists, Malay says, is how to offset the rather high 36 percent of those who said they don’t believe the posts on social media which are politically related. 

But at the same time, 38 percent said they believe what they see and read on social media sites. Ten percent said they have doubts on the authenticity of what they see and read while 16 percent said they simply ignore it. 

The impact of these figures, it seems, greatly manifest in the ranking of Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, who is one of those vying for a Senate seat.

According to Malay, of those surveyed, 61 percent said they have knowledge of Martial Law and the issues surrounding the late President Ferdinand Marcos. Some 40 percent said they came to know about Martial Law and Marcos through the social media. This, Malay said, should serve as an explanation to the rather low rating of Imee.

Malay’s pronouncement is not actually new. Armand Dean Nocum of Dean and Kings has long been utilizing the social media for his PR firm, and even “before President Duterte and US President Trump proved to the world that social media campaigns can greatly help one get elected to public office.”

While only a few took him seriously in 2015 when he pioneered the use of social media for PR purposes, Nocum vindicated himself when politicians who took his words seriously in 2016 ended up winning their coveted posts.

Back then, Nocum said campaigning politicians learned from the AlDub (Alden and Yaya Dub) phenomenon.

“Politicians running in the 2016 elections can learn so much from the AlDub phenomenon. They too can unlock the immense power of integrated tri-media (print, radio and Tv) and social media campaigns to boost their electoral bid. Both old and new media platforms are strong, but it is their fusion that can create a communication Big-Bang!” Nocum declared then.

And he was proven right.

“Now everyone from former Senate president Enrile to Congressman Neri Colmenares are saying they will campaign for the 2019 elections via social media,” Nocum said.

So from hereon, with aspirants now having filed their respective COCs, expect heavy traffic on the social media.

Topics: Charlie Manalo , Senator Grace Poe , Panay Electric Co. , PECO
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