Senators seek charges vs. Cusi, other Energy officials over Malampaya share sale

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 2) — The Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution seeking criminal and administrative charges against Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and other Department of Energy (DOE) officials who approved the controversial sale of shares in the Malampaya gas field.

The resolution was proposed by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who urged the Office of the Ombudsman and the Civil Service Commission to file charges against those involved in the buyout.

In a privilege speech during the plenary session, the lawmaker accused Cusi and his "erring subordinates" of graft, gross neglect of duty, and grave misconduct, and called for their immediate resignation.

"Nananawagan ako kay Secretary Cusi at sa labing-isa na mga opisyal ng DOE na kasama sa pag-apruba ng Chevron-UC (Udenna Corporation) Malampaya deal, magbitiw na kayo," he said.

[Translation: I call on Secretary Cusi and the 11 DOE officials who approved the Chevron-UC Malampaya deal to resign.]

Gatchalian claimed the Energy officials railroaded the sale of Chevron's 45% share in Malampaya to business tycoon Dennis Uy's Udenna Corporation in 2019, despite supposedly knowing Udenna was "financially unqualified."

The senator alleged the department provided an unwarranted preference to Uy's firm through "manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence in evaluating and approving the deal."

"Allowing a company in financial turmoil to own a large stake in Malampaya gravely endangers our country's energy security," Gatchalian said.

"With all that has happened, the Filipino people can no longer trust you to faithfully safeguard our country's precious energy resources," he told the officials.

Besides Chevron's, Udenna was also able to secure another 45% stake in the natural gas project after purchasing Shell Exploration BV's shares last year, bringing its total ownership to 90%. The remaining 10% is maintained by the state through the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation.

If the allegations are proven true, Gatchalian said the officials could face dismissal from public service, up to 15 years imprisonment, and perpetual disqualification from public office.

CNN Philippines has requested comment from Cusi.

Meanwhile, four lawmakers abstained from passing the resolution. They are Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, and Francis Tolentino.

The Energy chief, Uy, and several others are also facing a graft complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman over the deal. It was filed last October by geologist Balgamel Domingo, lawyer Rodel Rodis, and businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis.

Cusi has dubbed the graft charges as "harassment," saying it was politically motivated as the national elections are heating up. He reiterated that the DOE scrutinized the deal to ensure the country's energy security is not compromised. Udenna has also stood by the legality of the agreement.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Eimor Santos contributed to this report.