By: Francis Allan L. Angelo and Emme Rose Santiagudo
PANAY Electric Co. (Peco), the sole power distributor in lloilo City, wants two councilors, a Malacañang appointee, and a daughter of a former justice secretary and congressman to pay P100 million in damages for allegedly besmirching its reputation.
The P100-million damage claim is included in the criminal case Peco filed with the Department of Justice in Manila on June 27, 2019.
The respondents in the case are Iloilo City Councilors Joshua Alim and Plaridel Nava, presidential consultant Jane Javellana, and Dr. Marigold Gonzalez who is the daughter of the late justice secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr.
In the 11-page complaint, Peco Administrative Manager Marcelo Cacho accused the four of allegedly falsifying more or less 27,000 signatures in a manifesto that opposed the renewal of Peco’s congressional franchise.
Cacho said the actuations of the respondents violated Articles 171 and 172 of the Revised Penal Code (use of falsified documents).
He also charged the four for cyber-libel under Section 4(c), Paragraph 4 of Republic Act 10175 or Cybercrime Law.
Cacho claimed that the alleged falsified manifesto was submitted to the Senate Committee on Public Services during the hearing on Peco’s franchise of Oct 22, 2018. The same petition was also submitted to the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.
Citing the contents of the manifesto, the complainant said that Alim and company sought the help of some individuals including barangay officials to gather 300 signatures from 180 barangays in Iloilo City or a total of 54,000 signatures.
Cacho claimed that Alim’s group wanted to use the signatures to compel Peco to hear the sentiments of consumers in a public forum.
The “signature gatherers” were given two days to procure the required number of signatories.
“They were then given a two-day timetable within which to obtain the required number of signatures or two days prior to the departure of respondents Alim, Nava, Javellana for Manila,” the complaint added.
But Cacho alleged that the respondents only gathered 3,500 signatures a few days prior to their (Alim, et al) departure for Manila to attend the Senate committee hearing, thus the signature gatherers were allegedly “compelled to affix around 24,000 more fictitious signatures on the petition, which they then submitted to the office of respondent Alim.”
“The following day, the concerned individuals (signature procurers) learned of media reports where respondents Alim, Nava, and Javellana were bragging that 27,000 Iloilo City consumers signed the petition,” the complaint added.
Aside from the alleged fake petition, Cacho said the respondents maligned Peco before congress by making “bloated allegations” of overbilling, billing without meter reading, and other alleged poor services committed by the power distributor.
The complaint said that the P100-million claim represents the “amount of investments, equipment, and facilities, which complainant (Peco) had spent and invested in building its business throughout its 95-year existence and service to the entire Iloilo community.”
In a phone interview, Alim denied Peco’s allegations of forged signatures in the petition.
Alim said the signatories voluntarily affixed their names on the petition.
“We did not solicit the signatures. Concerned consumers circulated the petition and asked for the signatures of those who agreed with its contents,” he added.
Alim said the group of the late Mercedes Nava, who was a former ally of Dr. Marigold Gonzalez, also gathered signatures on their own.
Before she was gunned down early this year, Nava, a cousin of Councilor Plaridel Nava, revealed that some of the signatures in the anti-Peco petition were forged.
“We only accepted the signatures that were submitted to us because we were helping each other. A lot of groups were collating the signatures. For now, we cannot comment much because we have yet to read the complaint,” Alim said.
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