Court sheriffs take possession of Peco’s assets
ILOILO CITY — In an unprecedented move, court sheriffs started taking possession of expropriated power distribution assets of the Panay Electric Co. (Peco) on Friday before turning it over to More Electric Corp. (More Power).
Tensions rose at the Peco office and the main substation along General Luna Street here, after the administrative building was locked by Peco officials who refused to accept the writ of possession served by the sheriffs.
A copy of the writ of possession issued by Judge Emerald Requina-Contreras of the Regional Trial Court Branch 23 was posted at the entrance of the building by sheriffs who were accompanied by about 100 policemen including antiriot personnel.
As of 4:20 p.m. Friday, sheriffs were still attempting to take possession of four other substations, some of which were padlocked.
At a press conference, Roel Castro, More Power president said they were expecting to take “full control” of all five substations within the day saying they were merely following the court’s order.
But Estrella Elamparo of the Divina Law firm, legal counsel of Peco, said the implementation of the writ of possession was “unprecedented, highly irregular and shocking.”
She pointed out that the constitutionality of certain provisions of the franchise of More Power especially on the expropriation of assets of Peco is still pending before the Supreme Court.
“This is a brazen attempt to preempt and sidestep the Supreme Court’s [ruling on the issue],” Elamparo said.
She said they were unaware that a writ of possession had been issued until the court sheriffs were already serving the order.
Elamparo said sheriffs and representatives of More Power could face charges for forcibly taking possession and control over Peco’s assets without a break-open order.
A break-open order is an order issued by a court when a party refuses to yield possession of a property covered by a writ of possession.
“There has to be a proper turnover because [what is involved] is not just a piece of land but an entire business operation,” she said.
In a 14-page order issued on Feb. 20 but received by the parties on Feb. 26, Judge Contreras reiterated the granting of the writ of possession to More Power.
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.
Contreras in her order specified Peco’s assets covered by the writ of possession.
These include parcels of land, substations, machinery, and buildings with an assessed value totaling P217,940,870.
More Power, owned by port tycoon Enrique Razon Jr., filed an expropriation complaint on March 11, 2019, against Peco after the former was granted a 25-year franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.
Under Republic Act No. 11212 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Feb. 14, 2019, More Power was given two years to acquire or put up its own distribution facilities.
Peco has been operating for 96 years but its franchise expired on Jan. 18, 2019.
In another statement, Peco’s head of public engagement and government affairs Marcelo Cacho said allowing More to take over Peco’s assets was “most unjust” and would cause “irreparable injury and massive damage” to the city and its stakeholders.
“Despite these challenges, we will continue to fight for our rights, for what is right, and for the people of Iloilo,” Cacho said.
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