PECO SCORES IN SUPREME COURT: High Court denies MORE Power’s prayer for TRO vs. Mandaluyong RTC decision

PECO Administrative chief Marcelo Cacho

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

THE Supreme Court (SC) denied the prayer of the Razon-led MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction against the decision of the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 209.

The high court’s Second Division issued the denial through a resolution dated August 14, 2019.

The decision struck down MORE Power’s prayer for TRO and writ of preliminary injunction against the decision of Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 declaring as “void and “unconstitutional” provisions of Republic Act (RA) 11212, which granted MORE Power the congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.

This means that the Mandaluyong court’s decision stands for now.

“After deliberating on the petition for review on certiorari (with prayer for TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction) assailing the decision dated on July 1, 2019 of the RTC Branch 209, the Court without necessarily giving due course thereto, resolves to require respondents to file comment thereon, not a motion to dismiss within ten days from notice, and to deny the prayer for issuance of a TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction,” SC Division Clerk of Court, Maria Lourdes Perfecto said in the resolution.

Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 struck down sections 10 and 17 of RA No. 11212 for infringing on PECO’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law” in its decision issued on July 1, 2019.

Under Sec. 10 of RA 11212, MORE Power is authorized to exercise the power of eminent domain in so far as it may be reasonable and necessary for the efficient establishment, improvement, upgrading, rehabilitation, maintenance and operation of a power distribution system.

Section 17 of RA 11212 allows PECO to operate the existing distribution system within the franchise area until MORE Power establishes its own distribution system which shall not exceed two years from the grant of the franchise.

With the SC’s denial of the TRO, PECO Administrative Manager Marcelo Cacho said that MORE Power is prevented from proceeding with the expropriation case that it filed in an attempt to take over PECO’s assets.

“Any expropriation efforts by Razon’s MORE has been disallowed by the SC and if they’re truly serious to serve the people of Iloilo, they will do what it takes to invest and do what Pres. Duterte has called on all businesses: build, build, build, and not take, take, take. And quoting the president himself: Wag mag-agaw ng negosyo,” he said.

In a separate resolution issued on September 2, 2019, the SC also required Presiding Judge Yvette Marie Go of Iloilo City RTC Branch 37 to comment on the claim of PECO that granting MORE Power’s writ of possession constitutes “an insidious form of forum shopping, both direct and indirect contempt”.

“Considering the urgent motion dated August 27, 2019 of PECO stating that despite the judgment of the RTC in Mandaluyong City finding sections 10 and 17 of R.A. 11212 unconstitutional, petitioner continuously defies the same by vigorously pursuing the expropriation case docketed before the RTC Branch 37 while appealing at the same time the judgment of the RTC Mandaluyong before this Court in this instant case, with prayer for the issuance of a TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction; that a day before her inhibition upon respondent PECO’s motion, the Presiding Judge of the RTC of Ioilo City issued an Order dated August 14, 2019 granting a writ of possession in favor of petitioner in disregard of the judgment of the RTC, Mandaluyong and of the pendency of the instant case; the petitioner’s aforesaid conduct constitutes an insidious form of forum shopping, both indirect and direct contempt, the Court resolves to require Presiding Judge Yvette Marie Go of RTC Branch 37 in Iloilo to file comment thereon within ten days from notice,” the resolution said.

PECO’s franchise already expired last January 2019 and its certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) also expired in May 2019.

Go granted MORE Power’s application of writ of possession in relation to the expropriation case on August 14, 2019.

The expropriation case was filed by MORE against PECO in an attempt to take over its assets.

Right after her decision, Go inhibited herself from the case and it was re-raffled to RTC Branch 35 in Iloilo City.

Following the two separate resolutions of the SC, PECO assured its Ilonggo consumers that it will continue to work towards providing uninterrupted service.

“We will ensure that as we do the right thing—and we enjoin Ricky Razon’s MORE to also do the right thing—we will strengthen our resolve to continue serving and finding the best energy solutions for the people of Iloilo while abiding by whatever decision the Supreme Court hands down,” Cacho noted.