Power bill in CdO skyrockets

Last week, the missus was unusually cranky and grumpy. At first, I blamed it to advancing age. Then, I thought my almost quotidian escapade to the fairways of Pueblo de Oro to whack golf balls has finally rubbed on her nerves. I also overheard her admonishing our helpers to put out their TV and lights after 9 p.m. Later did I know that she was pissed off by the meteoric rise of our power bill.

After our homes, commercial buildings and other priceless positions were bombed out and leveled to the ground by the reckless aerial and ground bombardment by government forces in the historic Marawi siege, we settled in Cagayan de Oro, joining our other children who have earlier transferred residence there. We still maintain our residential house in Quezon City. I am therefore sensitive to the monthly bills we are paying and cannot help but compare the electric bills in Quezon City and Cagayan de Oro. And this I can tell you: Our power bill in CdO, on the average, is very much higher than that in Metropolitan Quezon City.

My initial reaction was to think that there was a mistake in the metering and computation. How did our bill almost double for the month of July? I inquired from our homeowners’ village office, and they told me of the increase imposed by the Cagayan de Oro Electric and Power Light Company.

My reflex action as a lawyer was to protest. Was this previously approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission? I thought the process is so exhaustive, rigid, and stern that an electric company has to pass through the eye of a needle before being granted an increase. Was there a public hearing conducted? Were the public sufficiently notified through media and other modes of notice? What happened to due process? Probably, while everyone’s attention was focused on fighting the menace of the pandemic, the increase was sneaked in like a thief in the night without the stakeholders noticing it.

From this bog came a knight in shining armor. Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri raised the alarm about the dramatic increase of electric bills in Cagayan de Oro, coincidentally a part of his domicile.

He ventilated our concern publicly before a national forum. His privilege speech provided a ray of hope to right a wrong. For a while, we thought the anomaly will join the ranks of problems buried in the bin of anonymity and inaction. Hope springs eternal.

Consumers expressed optimism that their problem will not just be swept under the rug. No less than the Senate President is championing consumers’ protection. This is one benefit of electing officials who are sensitive to the problems of those in far-flung areas away from the center of power. SP Zubiri is not all rhetoric; he walks the talk.

From media reports, Senate President Migz confirmed the increase. To a middle income earner, that makes a big difference. If they are feeling the pinch, how much more for those downtrodden living a hand-to-mouth existence?

The increase is ill-timed. It came when everybody is struggling to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic — loss of jobs, loss of income — because of the restrictions imposed by authorities and other allied adverse effects of the pandemic.

This could perhaps be just the tip of the iceberg. The revelation of SP Migz could hopefully open a Pandora’s box to expose unnecessary items in the billing, which are suspiciously questionable, or shave them off to ease the burden of consumers.

We laud SP Migz for standing up for his publics. We pray that there will be a congressional investigation so that we can ventilate our objection. If this is late in coming, we ask the Sangguniang Panglungsod to initiate an investigation. This also will provide a forum for CEPALCO to justify the increase.

This column cannot see clearly the justification. I am a litigator uninterested in figures. But I have this strange feeling that somebody is laughing his way to the bank.

I found the following post on my wall: “When I was young, I was scared of the dark. Now when I see my electric bill, I am scared of the lights.”



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