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Putting people first

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Agnes VST Devanadera, chairperson and chief executive officer, Energy Regulatory Commission — BW File Photo

Atty. Agnes VST Devanadera’s assumption of the post of chairperson and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in December of last year came at a time when the agency, which is tasked with ensuring consumer education and protection and promotion of competitive operations in the electricity market, was still reeling from the dismissal of its former head, Jose Vicente B. Salazar. President Rodrigo R. Duterte sacked Mr. Salazar on Oct. 6 after an investigation found him guilty of simple and grave misconduct. A month later, Ms. Devanadera was appointed by President Duterte to replace Mr. Salazar, heralding a hopeful new era for ERC.

“We welcome the appointment of the new chairman and CEO to complete the Commission. We look forward to continuously performing our mandate to the public under this new leadership,” Floresinda B. Digal, ERC spokesperson, said, quoting the agency’s official statement on Ms. Devanadera’s appointment.

At the ceremonial handover of the gavel to the new ERC chairperson in December at the head office of the agency in Pasig City, Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi was upbeat about the selection of Ms. Devanadera. “With all the qualifications, experience and wisdom that she has earned… we can expect a more energized ERC,” he was quoted as saying in a news release by the agency.

Mr. Cusi was at the ceremony along with ERC Commissioners Alfredo J. Non, Gloria Victoria C. Yap-Taruc, Josefina Patricia M. Asirit, and Geronimo D. Sta. Ana, and the staff of ERC. Ms. Devanadera’s family was also in attendance.

In a briefing with reporters a few days before the ceremony, Ms. Devanadera revealed what her priority would be on her first day of work: “synergy among the workers in ERC so that the institution can move faster and the institution can be part of the team in the energy sector that we think can deliver the services better.”

“As we observed during the JCPC (Joint Congressional Power Commission) meeting, there seem to be a lot but there are many other factors that we have to consider. So now that I saw… now that I am the head starting Monday, that will be the immediate direction and order of the day — put the house in order,” she was quoted as saying in a BusinessWorld report. “And I think if we have the right synergy, then the institution will move a lot faster.”

And this need for synergy was what she emphasized in her speech before the people of ERC. “Let us work together, let us work as a team,” Ms. Devanadera said. She also urged adherence to the values of work efficiency and professional competence, and against overlooking what public service really is. “We must not lose sight of the most basic principle of public service: we must put people first.”

And this has characterized her career as a public servant. Ms. Devanadera played an important role in, among other things, the recovery of the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and the prosecution of the individuals implicated in the Maguindanao Massacre. Before becoming the ERC chairperson, she served in the following capacities: Secretary of Department of Justice, solicitor general, mayor of Sampaloc, Quezon, and Undersecretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government.