DELAYING TACTIC: Court postpones expro case vs Peco

PERSONNEL of Panay Electric Co. conduct maintenance works in one of its feeders in Iloilo City. Consumers await the outcome of the expropriation case filed by MORE Electric and Power Corp. in a bid to take over Peco’s distribution facilities.

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

THE Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 37 on May 23, 2019 postponed the expropriation proceedings filed by MORE Power and Electric Co. (MORE Power) in a bid to take over the offices and power distribution facilities of Panay Electric Co. (Peco).

Specifically, Judge Yvette Go deferred the hearing on the writ of possession filed by MORE Power while she decides on Peco’s motion to suspend the entire proceedings.

Judge Go was expected to render her decision on Peco’s motion between Thursday afternoon and today before she flies abroad.

To recall, MORE Power filed the expropriation proceedings after securing its congressional franchise via Republic Act No. 11212 to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.

MORE, however, is still in the process of acquiring its certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

After depositing more or less P400 million with the Land Bank of the Philippines, MORE applied for the writ of possession which Peco opposed citing its own lawsuit filed with RTC Branch 209 in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila.

The P450 million will serve as “just compensation” to Peco if ever MORE succeeds in acquiring the former’s assets.

In an interview with Bombo Radyo-Iloilo, Peco’s legal counsel Estrella Elamparo said they filed the motion to suspend the proceedings on Wednesday in view of the Mandaluyong City case where they are questioning the constitutionality of MORE Power’s franchise.

“Sinabi namin sa korte na hindi muna dapat dinggin yung application dahil meron pa kaming pending motion to suspend proceedings,” she said.

Elamparo said they are happy that the RTC in Iloilo City was able to postpone the hearings “until our motion to suspend is resolved.”

“Indi naman sinasabi na hindi na ihihear yung application, siguro nakita lang ng korte yung argumento na dapat unahin ang motion to suspend the proceedings bago ma-hear yung application for writ of position ng MORE,” she said.

To recall, Peco filed on March 6, 2019 a petition for declaratory relief with application for temporary restraining order against MORE Power before the Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209.

Based on the petition, PECO argued that the authority granted to respondent MORE allowing it to take over PECO’s assets is “arbitrary and confiscatory and that the law authorizing such is not for public purpose.”

PECO also questioned Sections 10 and 17 of R.A. 11212, which grants MORE Power the authority to expropriate PECO assets, for violating latter’s right to due process and constitutional right to equal protection of the law.

MORE Power then has filed on March 11, 2019 an expropriation case with the Regional Trial Court in Iloilo City in a bid to acquire PECO’s distribution assets.

Elamparo emphasized that the question of constitutionality and legality provision of the law allowing MORE Power to expropriate PECO’s assets must first be resolved.

“Dapat itong expropriation proceedings, wag munang dinggin habang hindi pa naresolba yung constitutionality or legality ng provision ng batas allowing the expropriation. Yan kasi dedesisyonan pa ng RTC ng Mandaluyong,” she said.

She also pointed out that they were the first to file the complaint in Mandaluyong before MORE Power moved to acquire PECO’s assets five days after.

Elamparo also argued that expropriation proceedings can only take place if the private property would be taken over for public use.

“Etong ginagawa ng MORE ay kinukuha nila ang assets na pinaghirapan ni PECO para gamitin nila sa kanilang negosyo. Kaya tayo nag-aallow ng expropriation of assets ay para ang private property ay gamitin for public use,  indi mo matatawag na public use kung hindi yan gagamitin ng government agency or for some other public purpose,” she stressed.



Meanwhile, MORE Power legal counsel Hector Teodosio said Peco’s move is only meant to delay the actual expropriation of its assets.

“Ila ginahimo nga ma-delay nila pero how long ni nila ma-delay kay the law is clear nga may right ang MORE to take possession,” he said.

According to Teodosio, it is only a matter of time for the actual expropriation to take place since MORE Power is ready with not less than P450 million (now deposited at the Land Bank of the Philippines) as just compensation for PECO’s assets.

Teodosio added that their track is the complete takeover of Peco’s facilities from the two-floor building in General Luna in City Proper to the substations, electrical posts, and meters.

“That is the thing nakulbaan nila, ang amon application nga writ of possession. Ang amon track is to take over ang whole properties dira sa General Luna, first and second floor, all substations, all kuryente and electric meters. Part sang deretso sang MORE Power bilang gintagaan franchise and Peco wala na franchise , nag-expire na ila franchise,” he said.

He also argued that the Mandaluyong RTC is an equal of the Iloilo City RTC, hence it should not wait for the Metro Manila court’s decision.

“Indi pwede nga ang RTC sa Mandaluyong mas puderoso diri sa RTC sa Iloilo City. Parehos lang ang ila argument mahulat sa action ang isa ka court, that is not the correct procedure and jurisprudence. Wala ya naghambal si Judge Go nga mahulat siyaang iya lang hambal nga ang ila motion for suspension of hearing i-resolve niya,” he said.

There is no final date yet for the next hearing of MORE Power’s expropriation case against Peco.