Legal victory is for Iloilo residents, says More Power exec
MANILA, Philippines — Iloilo City electric provider More Electric and Power Corp. (More Power) claimed that their recent legal win is a victory for residents in the city as they supposedly ousted a company that monopolized electricity in the area.
More Power was referring to the Supreme Court (SC) decision on the legal debacle between the said company and the Panay Electric Co. Inc. (Peco), which sought control of Iloilo’s electric utility service.
Voting 8-6, SC upheld More Power’s control over the power distribution utilities, despite Peco insisting that it has to the service even as Congress has already granted More Power a legislative franchise to operate.
“We applaud the Supreme Court for making this decision and by standing alongside the advocacy of the people to finally oust a monopoly that has trampled on the rights of the Ilonggos for so long,” More Power president Roel Castro said.
“Rest assured that More Power will continue working to improve and modernize the distribution system as we carry forward the tradition of noble public service which we believe Ilonggos have every right to demand for and which they fully deserve,” he added.
More Power started taking over Peco’s operation after filing an expropriation case against the latter, as they believe Peco’s continuous grip on the power utilities puts residents at a disadvantage.
However, Peco questioned why Congress even granted a 15-year franchise when More Power was supposedly not even ready to operate a power distribution business, and was only seeking to take over assets that Peco acquired over years.
“This victory has definitely made every step of the year-long legal wrangle very much worth it despite Peco’s delaying tactics and fake news propaganda against us,” Castro noted.
“The ruling, more than anything else, is a clear message by the High Tribunal that nothing is over and above the welfare of the general public. This is definitely a major win for all of us, most especially for Iloilo power consumers who spent years, decades even, putting up with all the unbridled violations and inequities of the former utility distributor,” he added.
Despite respecting the SC decision, Peco’s camp believes that the issue would open the avenue for possible abuse of the expropriation powers.
“We are saddened by the decision of the Supreme Court. It was a close vote on a novel issue that had never been raised before our Highest Court, but will certainly have reverberating consequences that open the power of expropriation to abuse,” Peco counsel Estrella Elamparo said.
“The tight vote lends support to our position that the takeover of Peco’s properties is not the exercise of eminent domain contemplated by our laws, but a violation of constitutional rights. Curiously, the ponente proceeded with the decision just four days before his retirement from the judiciary,” she added.
Peco also vowed to continue fighting for their sake, as they believe they have the right to manage the electricity assets in the city.
“Although this is a massive hurdle, we will not give up on our fight and we will continue to pursue the available legal remedies to defend PECO’s constitutional rights. Despite this temporary setback, we remain optimistic that we will ultimately be vindicated not just for PECO but for the people of Iloilo,” Elamparo noted.
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