Court allows MORE Power to take over PECO assets

Panay Electric Co.’s main office in Gen. Luna Street, Iloilo City is one of the assets being eyed by MORE Electric and Power Corp. (F. A. Angelo)

By: Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 37 has granted MORE Electric and Power Corp.’s application for the issuance of a writ of possession in its bid to take over the assets of Panay Electric Co. (PECO)

The writ is part of MORE Power’s expropriation case against PECO after securing its congressional franchise to distribute power in Iloilo City via Republic Act No. 11212.

Lawyer Hector Teodosio, counsel for MORE Power, confirmed that RTC Judge Yvette Go granted the writ on Aug 14, 2019 yet.

But right after granting the writ, Judge Go inhibited from further hearing the expropriation case.

“Still, the writ is already enforceable by the sheriff because of the court order. We expect to enforce it within the week,” Teodosio said in a phone interview.

Today, Aug 19, the RTC will re-raffle MORE Power’s expropriation case, with the hearing to focus on the just compensation for PECO’s distribution assets which includes power lines, substations, and office building.

MORE Power has deposited more than P481 million with a government bank representing what it believes is the actual value of PECO assets based on the latter’s financial and tax declarations.

“The hearing at the new RTC branch that will handle the main expropriation case will tackle just compensation for PECO’s assets. Both sides will present evidence as to the real value of the assets,” Teodosio added.

PECO has yet to issue a statement on this latest development.

Meanwhile, MORE Power president and CEO Roel Castro said they are ready to implement the writ in a peaceful manner if ever they receive the order.

“If it’s true, then let’s implement it smoothly for the sake of the consumers. The consumers deserve an uninterrupted transition from PECO to MORE,” Castro said.

RTC Branch 37 granted the writ despite the decision of the Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 which nullified portions of RA 11212, particularly Sections 10 and 17 which allowed MORE Power to expropriate PECO’s private assets, including poles, wires, cables, transformers, switching equipment, stations and buildings, machinery and equipment, currently being used to distribute electricity in the province.

In its July 1, 2019 ruling, the Mandaluyong RTC ruled that PECO has no obligation to sell its assets, and MORE Power has no right to expropriate PECO’s properties.

“The discriminatory and confiscatory effect of the assailed provisions cannot be denied,” said the ruling signed by Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio of the Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209.

PECO’s rights to equal protection under the law were violated by the provisions, the court added.

MORE Power filed the expropriation case in March 2019 saying that the immediate takeover of PECO assets will allow the firm to “immediately address and correct poor services, overcharging, frequent brownouts, expensive rates, old and unsafe facilities and practices, and other service deficiencies that this city’s power users and consumers had long suffered”.

MORE Power said in its petition that it is “willing and able to deposit the amount of P481,842,450 in a bank that the Honourable Court will designate as a deposit in support of the plaintiff’s prayer for the issuance of a writ of possession.”

MORE Power also maintained that the assets they seek to control are already public property as consumers have repaid PECO for its investments.