IN another legal debacle, the Panay Electric Company (PECO), the former power distributor of Iloilo City, suffered another beating after the Iloilo Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 23 denied its motion for reconsideration against a decision it issued on April 16, this year.
This came about as RTC Branch 23 Judge Emerald Requina-Contreras issued an order dated July 2, 2020 stating that “the court in its order sought to be reconsidered already cited the reasons why the court cannot grant the Omnibus Motion to enforce the Addendum and Urgent Ex Parte Motion to order the sheriff of the RTC Iloilo City to implement its addendum.”
In dismissing the motion, the order reiterated that PECO has no more franchise to operate the distribution system and no Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) to operate while MORE Power has both the franchise and the provisional CPCN.
“Defendant PECO should know this better as this has been what they have been invoking and the very reason why the court crafted the addendum,” the order stated.
PECO’s franchise expired on January 19, 2019, as Congress opted to allow MORE Power to take over the power distribution functions in Iloilo City.
Republic Act (RA) No. 11212 granting MORE the power’s franchise was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 14, 2019.
For its part, through an executive order dated May 8, 2020, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas revoked PECO’s business permit after PECO lost both its franchise and CPCN, following the revocation issued by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
The earlier court decision ordered the sheriff “to place More Power in possession” of PECO properties identified for expropriation.
The properties were identified as the Baldoza-La Paz substation (land including all machineries and improvements, buildings), General Luna substation (machinery), Tabuc Suba, Jaro substation (land, machinery), Bolilao, Mandurriao substation (land, buildings, and machinery), and Avanceña Street, Molo substation (land, and buildings, machinery).
The specific assets were assessed to have a combined value of P217,940,870. Also placed in MORE Power’s possession were personal properties directly used in the electric distribution services in Iloilo City, such as consumers’ electric meters, poles, transformers, transmission and distribution equipment composed of primary and secondary lines on the streets of Iloilo City, and service vehicles and equipment used directly in the distribution, maintenance and troubleshooting activities.
The order also covered PECO’s assets listed under the distribution plant in the ERC record, which included the meter lab, power plant building, and switchboard house with total assessed value of P14,792,680.
In the latest decision, Judge Contreras said “the court already issued and implemented the writ of possession according to law and jurisprudence.”
“Defendant PECO, in fact, had resorted to other legal remedies to question the said action of the court but as of this writing, there is no order from the higher court to rule otherwise. Wherefore, finding no cogent reason to set aside or disturb its earlier order, the motion for reconsideration is denied,” the order said.
LEGAL BLACK EYES
PECO has gone to the Court of Appeals twice for a TRO to stop the expropriation case in the Iloilo RTC.
The Court of Appeals has denied the TRO and has rejected PECO’s argument that the pendency of the case on constitutionality of RA No. 11212 is a valid reason to stop the expropriation case.
When the writ of possession was issued by the Iloilo RTC, PECO went to the CA for the third time for a TRO to stop the implementation of the writ of possession.
The CA did not issue a TRO. After the sheriff had fully implemented the writ of possession, PECO filed a supplemental petition with the Court of Appeals asking that PECO be returned to possession with a status quo ante order.
The CA has not granted PECO’s request for a status quo ante order.
On December last year, the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining PECO and Mandaluyong RTC relative to its judgment declaring void and unconstitutional Sections 10 and 17 of RA No. 11212.
The ERC, for its part, has verified and recognized the technical capability and readiness of MORE to operate the distribution system as it has maintained and operated the distribution system using the same technical personnel who had transferred from PECO.
It can be recalled that the case was first handled by Judge Yvette Go of RTC Branch 37 in which she granted MORE Power’s application for the issuance of a writ of possession on Aug. 14, 2019 before also inhibiting herself from the case.
In a recent accomplishment report made before the Iloilo City Council, MORE Power president Roel Castro said they were able replace a total of 109 “rotten poles” covering the period of 110 days since MORE Power took over on February 29, this year, a serious problem that PECO had long ignored, with new ones within the first week of operations.
He said MORE was also able to replace and uprated 146 distribution transformers. “If you will count the number of days that we have been operating, we have been replacing more than one (1) transformer per day on the average,” he noted.
In addition, he said that MORE corrected a total of 133 hotspots of overheating sections comprising of air-break switch, disconnect cutout, disconnect switch, primary bushing, primary connector, secondary connector, primary jumper, sectionalizing cutout, line cutout, fuse cutout, pole grounding connector, and hotline clamps.
MORE Power, accordingly, attended to a total of 4,519 “Trouble Calls and Work Order Responses” while its “Customer Care Responses” accumulated a total of 50,068 through the company’s customer welfare desk, helpline, and social media platforms.
“We really need to fix things and that is what we are actually doing 24/7. Rest assured that we are initiating proactive programs and policies attuned to the needs of our time to better serve the people of Iloilo. And this is propelled by our avowed mission to steer our city closer towards sustained prosperity and security through a sustainable energy service,” Castro further said.