Peco barking up wrong tree

By: Limuel S. Celebria

BELEAGUERED power firm Panay Electric Co. Inc. is barking up the wrong tree when it excoriated Iloilo City Rep. Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda following the denial of its application for the renewal of its franchise by the House Committee on Franchises.

PECO, it seems, is heaping all the blame on Congw. Baronda for all its woes. True enough, Baronda voted against the renewal of Peco’s franchise bid citing the fact that another power player – MORE Electric and Power Corp., has been granted a franchise by the previous congress to distribute power in Iloilo City.  In fact, PECO and MORE are currently locked in litigation over alleged “unconstitutional” provisions contained in the Franchise Bill granted to MORE.

Baronda reasoned quite correctly that granting Peco a franchise, at this time, would only further complicate the already entangled legal issues between the two firms. By the looks of it, the cases will reach all the way to the Supreme Court, especially on the issue of the power of eminent domain granted to More on account of its franchise.

But the vote against PECO was unanimous. Even the party-list solon who sponsored Peco’s franchise bid did not show up to even defend the bill.  Had Baronda favored Peco, hers would be a lone, insignificant dissenting vote that may put a stain on her image as a neophyte solon and mark her as a renegade.

The Committee on Franchises has 46 members (although when the voting was called, there were only 44 members listed) and not a single one – not even the sponsor – voted in favor of Peco.  Why then should Peco single out Baronda?

Peco accused Baronda of flip-flopping and insinuating – quite maliciously with no evidence at all – that money was involved.  In a Daily Guardian report, Peco was quoted as saying, “…we are a little tired of politicians who speak for public good when they need votes and jump in the pocket of powerful Manila interests when the time comes to do the right thing.” Baronda bristled at this allegation and described it as “baseless, false, and borders on malice.” I’m surprised she didn’t demand for an apology.

Peco’s Baronda-bashing has even spilled over from mainstream media to social media. This is irresponsible, unbecoming of a public service corporation, and totally out of line. Peco’s behavior toward a duly elected public official merely betrays the kind of corporate ethos it has wallowed in – arrogant, presumptuous, contemptible.  Precisely the reasons many of its consumers seek to replace it. Despite its vaunted service to Iloilo City of nearly a century, Peco continues to remain sorely lacking in corporate public relations.

Despite the fact that Peco’s franchise renewal bid has been thrown to the trash bin twice already, it can be filed again. Who knows, the House under a new Speaker, after Allan Peter Cayetano steps down, could be friendlier to Peco?

Thus, Peco’s belligerence to Congw. Baronda at this point is not only unnecessary and uncalled for but also counter-productive.

The funny thing here is the rant against Baronda of those who supported More from the get-go. It seems they cannot accept the fact that Baronda is now also on the side of the More fence.

Why? The only logical answer is that in the continuing Peco vs More fight, they have been rendered irrelevant not to mention the fact that some of them may have become collateral damage.