PROLONGED LEGAL BATTLE: PECO, MORE Power stand their ground

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

PANAY Electric Co. (PECO) is banking on the judgment of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Mandaluyong to prevent a new player, MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power), from taking over its assets.

On July 1, 2019, Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 invalidated Republic Act No. 11212, which gives MORE Power the congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.

The decision said RA 11212 is “void and unconstitutional for infringing on PECO’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law.”

The Mandaluyong RTC decision also made “permanent” the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) initially secured by PECO on March 6, 2019 against MORE Power’s franchise.

“The TRO dated March 14, 2019 in so far it enjoins respondent MORE and or/any of its representatives from enforcing, implementing and exercising any of the rights and obligations set forth under RA 11212, including but not limited to commencing or pursuing the expropriation proceedings against petitioner PECO under assailed provisions; and takeover by respondent MORE of petitioner PECO’s distribution assets in the franchise area is hereby made permanent,” the order said.

In its official statement, PECO emphasized that the judgment of the Mandaluyong Court is “valid, correct, and legally and justifiably enforceable”.

PECO added it will enforce and implement the permanent injunction of the Mandaluyong Court to restrain the take over and possession of MORE Power of their assets.

“The Judgment of RTC Mandaluyong is valid, correct and legally and justifiably enforceable, until set aside by a higher court. PECO will therefore enforce and implement the permanent injunction of RTC of Mandaluyong restraining the takeover and possession of PECO’S assets,” the firm added.

PECO issued the statement after the Iloilo RTC Branch 37 on Aug 14, 2019 granted the application of MORE Power for a writ of possession in a bid to take over PECO’s power distribution assets.

But RTC Branch 37 Judge Marie Yvette Go inhibited herself from hearing the expropriation case filed by MORE Power against PECO.

MORE Power filed the expropriation case on March 11 pursuant to its exercise of the power of eminent domain contained in the RA 11212.

PECO downplayed the move of RTC Branch 37 particularly the decision of Judge Go, emphasizing that “it pre-empted the ruling of no less than the High Tribunal on MORE´s appeal and application for TRO”.

“It bears stressing that MORE has appealed the Mandaluyong judgment with the Supreme Court and asked for a TRO against its implementation. To date, however, no TRO has been issued by the Supreme Court.  Thus, by granting the petition for issuance writ of possession, Judge Go disregarded the ruling of RTC Mandaluyong,” PECO said in its official statement.

But MORE Power asserted that there is no permanent injunction issued against Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212.

“MORE Power has received information that there are individuals spreading false news that the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong Branch 209 has issued a permanent injunction. That is a complete lie,” they said.

According to MORE Power, the Mandaluyong Court never used the word, “permanent injunction” in the order, adding that decision made by the same court was executory.

“Clearly, the RTC of Mandaluyong City never used the word, ‘permanent injunction’, and in fact in the dispositive portion as above quoted the word, ‘injunction’ never appeared.  The decision of the Mandaluyong RTC is still the subject of a Motion for Reconsideration dated 30 July 2019 filed by the Solicitor General and is still pending before the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong. Likewise, there is now an appeal by MORE Electric and Power Corporation in a petition for review before the Supreme Court,” they furthered.

MORE Power also emphasized that “Any person peddling this lie as above described shall be severely dealt with as his or her action is contemptuous”.

Meanwhile, the expropriation case was raffled again on Monday to the sala of Iloilo RTC Branch 35 Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo Amolar.