Joker: Oil firms can reject gov’t audit

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — ADMINISTRATION Sen. Joker Arroyo believes that the Commission on Audit can not compel oil companies — being private entities — to open their books for full scrutiny as he appealed for some “diplomacy” in dealing with these firms to lower fuel prices.

“Ang COA government iyan. Paano kung ayaw ng oil companies? P’wede nilang tanggihan ‘yan. Ang dapat mag-usap muna. Ang hirap sa iba, gusto banggaan. Hindi dapat adversarial. Kasi deregulated industry ito,” Arroyo said. “Less agitation dapat. We must appeal to them not make too much profit. Hindi naman sinasabi na ‘Oy, huwag kayong kumita, huwag lang masyado. It’s a vital industry, umpisahan muna sa pag-uusap.”

Asked who should initiate the talks, Arroyo said: “Trabaho ng Department of Energy (DoE) iyan.”

Opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson Tuesday said that it is high time for the government to show “real intervention” in lowering the prices of fuel by subjecting the books of oil firms to a full audit.

He said that an audit will be a more realistic measure in reducing oil prices than the supposed “moral persuasion” by Malacañang that led to a P1.50/liter rollback in diesel prices.

“It’s time for government to intervene in accordance with existing laws to check on possible exploitation and abuse by so-called businessmen whose only passion in life is profit,” Lacson said.

He noted that such an audit, along with the exercise of prosecutorial powers by a new task force of the justice and energy departments, is in accordance with the oil deregulation law.

In contrast, he said that President Macapagal-Arroyo’s move to roll back diesel prices by P1.50 per liter “betrayed her tendency to intervene” only when her political survival is at stake.

“What we Filipino taxpayers and consumers need is a government that will protect us from abuse all the time, not only when its political survival is in danger,” he said.

Lacson urged the task force to throw the book at the oil firms if it finds evidence of profiteering at Filipino consumers’ expense. “The oil companies deserve such audit and eventual prosecution of their executives, should evidence warrant,” he said.

More importantly, he said the Department of Justice (DoJ) is finally doing its job even if the DoE “miserably failed” to check on the possible abuses of oil firms.