SHUT UP, PLEASE: PECO seeks to stop testimonies of ex-employees in expro case

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

PANAY Electric Co. (PECO) said it will seek the suspension of the oral testimonies of their two former employees who are witnesses in the expropriation case filed by MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power).

The two ex-PECO employees are set to testify in the hearing today, June 13, 2019.

The hearing on the Application for Writ of Possession filed by MORE Power against PECO and the Motion to Suspend Proceedings filed by PECO to stop MORE Power from acquiring its assets and all other issues concerning the expropriation case will also be tackled today at the Regional Trial Court Branch 37 in the Iloilo Hall of Justice.

PECO Corporate Communications Officer Mikel Afzelius confirmed in a phone interview on Wednesday that they will attempt to stop the testimonies of their former employees in today’s hearing.

The testimonies are expected to focus on the value of PECO’s distribution assets, which is critical to the expropriation case.

Afzelius said they still value their relationship with their former employees even if they are now working for MORE Power.

Hence, he emphasized that they should be not be placed in a disadvantageous position or be held liable for any violations.

“What we will be doing is we will be filing this for the suspension so that ma avoid naton ang damages nga maging liable sila. We filed the suspension of their testimony para to prevent them from becoming a witness,” he said.

According to Afzelius, former PECO employees who stood as witnesses are signed quit claims upon retirement.

“The quit claims upon retirement where they receive a certain amount of money, especially if they have been with the company for a number of years, also states that they should not file any case against PECO. It was notarized upon retirement,” he said.

The moment that the retired employees become witnesses in a case deemed as adversarial to PECO, Afzelius said they can be liable for damages if PECO invokes the quit claims.

“Once they become a witness, we will enforce the quit claim that they signed, te kaluluoy na sila. If gina-pressure sila sa MORE kaluluoy lang gid sila,” he said.

Iloilo RTC Branch 37 Pairing Judge Victor Gelvezon scheduled the hearing through an order issued on May 30, 2019.

“In particular, the issues to be dealt with are the; whether or not the Pairing Judge has the authority to resolve the Motion to Suspend Proceedings, whether implied or expressly; whether or not the issuance of the provisional certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to PECO negates the alleged urgency to hear the Application for Issuance of a Writ of Possession, and the Motion to Suspend Proceedings,” read part of the order.

MORE Power is trying to take over electric power distribution in Iloilo City from PECO’s control after acquiring its congressional franchise through Republic Act 11212.

It filed the expropriation case on March 11, 2019 in a bid to acquire PECO’s assets.

PECO tried to stop the proceedings by filing an Urgent Motion for Reconsideration seeking the suspension of the expropriation case but it was also denied by the RTC Branch 37.

“In general, ang kalatabo are oral arguments sang mga various motions nga ginfile sa court. All of that needs to be settled before we can proceed plus it’s the pairing judge that is presiding, we have to wait for the presiding judge to come back for decisions to be made,” Afzelius said.

Despite the expiration of its congressional franchise on January 19 and its CPCN on May 25, PECO continues to serve its constituents through the provisional CPCN granted by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

The provisional CPCN is also anchored on RA 11212 which provides a two-year transition period from PECO to MORE Power.