Iloilo court orders sheriff to give possession of Peco assets to More
ILOILO CITY—After nearly a year of litigation, the Iloilo Regional Trial Court (RTC) has directed the court’s sheriff to turn over possession of distribution assets of Panay Electric Co. (Peco) to rival firm More Electric Power Corp. (More Power).
In a 14-page order issued on Feb. 20 but received by the parties on Feb. 26, Judge Emerald Requina-Contreras of the RTC Branch 23 reiterated the grant of a writ of possession to More Power.
“The primary goal of the court is a smooth and peaceful transition of operation, to protect the public interest of the people of Iloilo City and its businesses, and to ensure the uninterrupted supply of electricity,” according to the court order.
Contreras said it was the “ministerial duty of the court” to issue the writ of possession as two previous judges had already afforded due process to the parties to the case.
More Power legal counsel Hector Teodosio said the company owned by ports tycoon Enrique Razon will abide by the court order but declined to provide details.
In a statement issued on behalf of Peco, the Divina Law office said allowing More Power to take over Peco’s assets is “unjust” saying Peco will “continue to fight for its rights” and will “exhaust all possible legal remedies to pursue justice.”
The law firm cited a ruling of the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court that declared as unconstitutional provisions of the law, Republic Act No. 11212, that gave More Power a franchise to take over distribution of electricity in Iloilo for 25 years. The Mandaluyong court decision has been appealed at the Supreme Court where it remained pending.
Divina Law said it is in this context that allowing the Razon company to “precipitately take over on the basis of a highly questionable expropriation is unjust.”
“It will also cause irreparable injury and massive damage to the City of Iloilo and its stakeholders given that the parameters for the implementation of the writ are yet to be clarified by the court,” the law office added.
In an en banc resolution issued on Dec. 3, 2019, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the Mandaluyong court ruling, enjoining Peco and the court to cease implementing the ruling that declared provisions of More Power’s franchise to be unconstitutional.
Contreras, in her order, also specified Peco’s assets covered by the writ of possession.
These included parcels of land, substations, machinery and buildings with assessed value of more than P217 million.
The court excluded for now from the writ of possession parcels of land, parcels of stockyards, service vehicles not used for maintenance, guest and staff houses, office buildings, pieces of furniture and fixtures, computer equipment and others.
She said in her order that it was premature for the court to order the immediate expropriation of all pieces of Peco property listed by More Power in its petition for the writ.
The final inclusion or exclusion of other assets will still be determined, according to the court order.
Contreras is the fifth judge assigned to the case after previous judges inhibited themselves from the case.
The case was first handled by Judge Yvette Go of RTC Branch 37.
Go granted More Power’s application for the issuance of a writ of possession on Aug. 14, 2019 before also inhibiting herself from the case.
More Power filed the expropriation case on March 11, 2019 against Peco after the Razon company was granted a 25-year franchise by Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte.
The franchise law signed by Duterte on Feb. 14, 2019 gave More Power two years to acquire or put up its own distribution facilities.
Peco’s franchise expired on Jan. 18, 2019 but the Energy Regulatory Commission has granted a provisional Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to the nearly 100-year-old company to continue distributing power in Iloilo City until More Power is capable of taking over the power distribution. Attempts by Peco to secure franchise renewal were frustrated several times in the House of Representatives under the leadership of then Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and recently under the leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
Edited by TSB
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