SHUT UP: Court ‘gags’ MORE Power, PECO

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 35 in Iloilo City on Tuesday issued a “gag order” to MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) against Panay Electric Co. (PECO) relative to the former’s expropriation case.

The gag order prohibited MORE Power and PECO counsels from disclosing any information about the case to the public or the media.

RTC Branch 35 Presiding Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo Amular issued the order on August 20, 2019.

According to Amular, he has been hearing the pronouncements of both the counsels of MORE Power and PECO on the radio.

He emphasized that the comments and disclosures over the radio may subject the court into “disrepute or disrespect, considering the complicated issue brought about by developments in other judicial forum”.

“The Court needs time to go over the voluminous records of the case. Clearly, the comments and disclosures over the airwaves pertaining to the judicial proceedings by counsels of both parties may subject this Court into disrepute or disrespect,” read part of his order.

Amular said the gag order would prevent the court from any extraneous influence.

“This court invoking the sub judice rule, hereby issues a Gag Order, immediately directing and ordering the parties, their counsels, and persons acting on their behalf to avoid any improper conduct tending directly or indirectly to impede, obstruct, or degrade, the administration of justice, thereby insulating the Court from extraneous influence,” he concluded.

The expropriation was re-raffled to Amular’s sala after RTC Branch 37 Presiding Judge Marie Yvette Go inhibited herself from hearing the expropriation case.

Go recused from the case right after granting the application for a writ of possession by MORE Power in a decision dated August 14, 2019.

MORE Power filed the expropriation case in a bid to take over the assets of Iloilo City’s long-time distributor, PECO.

The expropriation case filed on March 11, 2019 is pursuant to its exercise of the power of eminent domain contained in the Republic Act No. 11212, the law that authorizes MORE Power the congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.

Judge Go made the decision despite the recent judgment of Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 declaring the RA 11212 “void and unconstitutional for infringing on PECO’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law” in its decision issued on July 1, 2019.