A game-changing SC verdict

By: Alex P. Vidal

“And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret. Concentrate your energy, thoughts and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged in. Having begun in one line, resolve to fight it out on that line; to lead in it. Adopt every improvement, have the best machinery and know the most about it.” — Larry Page

AFTER a stunning 44-0-vote loss in the “Kangaroo Court” called the House Committee on Legislative Franchise on September 11, 2019, the Panay Electric Company (PECO) bounced back with news of a heavy victory in the Supreme Court (SC) decided on August 14, 2019.

SC’s decision to shoot down MORE Power Electric Corp’s (MORE Power) prayer for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction against the decision of Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 declaring as “void” and “unconstitutional” provisions of Republic Act (RA) 11212, which granted Enrique Razon’s power company the congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City, was a victory more thrilling than the agony of the House committee on legislative franchise debacle.

It was like Rome, under consuls Paulius and Varro, which lost to Hannibal’s army of Carthage in the Battle of Cannae, a major battle of the Second Punic War in Apulia in 216 BC, but scored big when it defeated Greece in the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC.




As long as franchise holder MORE Power can’t provide its own assets to distribute electricity, nothing can prevent PECO to continue with its operations to serve the Ilonggo consumers even with absence of a franchise, which expired on January 18, 2019.

PECO is empowered by law and was given the authority by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to ensure uninterrupted electric service amid the legal furor.

Congress gave PECO’s rival, MORE Power, the authority through a 25-year franchise to distribute power in the city through RA 11212.

The caveat is Razon’s company must secure its own facilities in order to run a power business instead of taking over through an expropriation PECO’s assets.

PECO’s “defeat” in the House Committee on Legislative Franchise can still be transformed into “victory” if PECO can eventually secure a fresh franchise in its next attempt (a bill can be filed a year after the recent denial, according to the law), while the Supreme Court setback for MORE Power could be the game changer that would finally provide light at the end of the tunnel for the lingering issue.




U.N. UPDATE: NO TO HATE SPEECH. In the fast-growing digital age, hate speech can represent “a critical obstacle for LGBTI people” using online platforms, the UN’s top rights official told participants at a high-level segment on the matter on September 24.

“Unfortunately digital technologies have provided additional avenues for hate speech”, UN rights chief, Michele Bachelet, told participants, which included organizers from the LGBTI Core Group, Ministers, senior officials, and members of the media.

The high-level discussion at the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, aimed to address how different stakeholders can contribute to ending hate speech against LGBTI people on social media platforms and in traditional media, as well as ensure support for victims, when hateful words turn to violence.

The meeting stirred conversation around the right to free speech versus the license to hate, for which Ms.Bachelet offered an objective definition:

“Hate speech is any kind of communication, in speech, writing or behavior, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language, with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are”, she said, quoting the UN’s framework and plan of action for stamping out hate speech, introduced in June of this year.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)