* PECO lawyer rapped for ‘malicious’ statement
* MORE Power told to pull out advertisements

By Emme Rose Santiagudo

The Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 23 told the two energy firms jockeying for the power distribution services in Iloilo City to stop issuing public statements, especially the kind that could damage and undermine the court.

In a two-page order dated Mar 2, 2020, Judge Emerald K. Requina-Contreras noted that MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) and Panay Electric Co. (PECO) called press conferences and made pronouncements “on certain matters which is (sic) to be discussed before the court.”

Judge Contreras was referring to the flurry of press cons and statements from both firms after MORE Power took over PECO assets based on a writ of possession (WOP) issued by RTC Branch 23 on Feb 20, 2020.

The writ is relative to the expropriation case filed by MORE Power against PECO after the former secured a congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City.

The WOP was enforced Feb 28 by court sheriffs on certain assets identified by the court such as substations and switchboards.

Judge Contreras discussed in length the “malicious statements on air” of PECO legal counsel Estrella Elamparo about an “alleged meeting with the judge of a certain MORE personality the day before the writ was served, alluding to the court’s conspiracy with the Plaintiff.”

The judge said the court will deal with Elamparo and her statement.

“Immune to this form of misbehavior of counsels, whenever the judgment is adverse to their client, undersigned is not dissuaded to further hear the case with utmost impartiality. The behavior of Atty. Elamparo will not be taken against PECO as it will be dealt with by the court accordingly,” the court order read.

Thus, the court cautioned the counsels of both MORE and PECO “not to resort to any form of propaganda that undermines the integrity and credibility of the court” and to strictly observe the gag order earlier issued by RTC Branch 35 Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo Amular who recused from the expropriation case.

RTC Branch 35 issued the gag order on Aug 20, 2019 prohibiting PECO and MORE Power counsels from disclosing to the public or the media information about the expropriation case.

“The Court needs time to go over the voluminous records of the case. Clearly, the comments and disclosures over the air waves pertaining to the judicial proceedings by counsels of both parties may subject this court into disrepute or disrespect,” the gag order read.

MORE Power sought the writ of possession through an expropriation case it filed against PECO on March 11, 2019.

The Razon-led company started taking over the distribution assets of PECO on Feb 28, 2020 following the RTC Branch 23 order granting its petition for a writ of possession.

As of February 29, MORE Power announced that it has already commenced its operation in Iloilo City and will start its billing cut off.

This means that MORE Power has already started reading the meters of the consumers on Saturday to be reflected in the next monthly billing.

But in her order, Judge Contreras directed MORE Power to remove all the ads pertaining to its full operation pending the resolution of the foregoing expropriation case.

“MORE already made announcements, on broadcast and social media that they are now in full operation of the distribution facilities of Iloilo City. MORE is therefore, ordered to REMOVE all the ads pertaining to its full operation pending the resolution of the foregoing,” she added.

Judge Contreras also reminded both companies to submit their respective proposed timelines as indicated in the addendum to the WOP. The timelines must cover the following aspects:

-transition period


-turnover of records like the list of consumers

-documents relevant to the operation of the distribution systems, among others

-inventory of personal properties under Category A or assets that were turned over to MORE Power

-inventory of real properties already under the possession of MORE

The two companies have three days to submit the timelines and documents. They were also told to appear before the court on Mar 6, 2020, 8:30 a.m. to sort out some issues.