‘DON’T BE SISSIES’: Mayor tells courts to take side and resolve MORE Power-PECO tussle

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

The legal uncertainty in the tug-of-war between power distribution firms Panay Electric Co (PECO) and MORE Electric and Power Corp (MORE Power) has irked Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas on Monday, to the point that he uttered a “politically incorrect phrase” that describes cowardice.

In an interview, Treñas demanded the courts handling numerous suits filed by each company against each other to take side and resolve the legal issues between MORE Power and PECO.

Indi pwede nga ang korte mag-inagi. They will have to decide one way or another. I am already exasperated with some courts here. It’s about time that they make a decision one way or the other,” Treñas told reporters on Monday.

The mayor said the legal battles should be resolved since the city is already affected by the power struggle between the two firms.

“Ang bilog nga siyudad apektado tapos gainagi pa ang korte, indi pa na. They have to take a side. Indi pwede nga indi sila kadesisyon. Are they telling us to take the law into our hands?” he lamented.

MORE Power and PECO are currently locked in court battles in their desire to control power distribution services in Iloilo City.

Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a restraining order (TRO) against the decision of the Regional Trial Court Branch 209 in Mandaluyong City that declared as void and unconstitutional some provisions of MORE Electric and Power Co.’s (MORE Power) new congressional franchise covering Iloilo City.

“Effective immediately and continuing until further order from this Court, Branch 209 RTC in Mandaluyong and PECO, are hereby commanded and directed to cease and desist from implementing the judgement dated July 1, 2019 which declared Sections 10 and 17 of RA (Republic Act) 11212 void and unconstitutional and made permanent the TRO dated on March 14,” the SC order said.

Sec. 10 of RA 11212, which contains MORE Power’s franchise, authorizes the company to exercise the power of eminent domain, meaning expropriate PECO’s existing assets.

Section 17 of the law allows PECO, which has been Iloilo City’s sole power distributor for 95 years, to operate the existing system until MORE Power establishes its own within a period of not more than two years.

PECO’s franchise expired in January this year but it questioned the constitutionality of MORE Power’s franchise in the Mandaluyong RTC.

Meanwhile, MORE Power sought to exercise its franchise and acquire PECO’s assets by filing an expropriation case against PECO.

Iloilo RTC Branch 37 has granted MORE Power’s application for a writ of possession relative to the expropriation case but stopped short of issuing a writ of possession after the judge inhibited from hearing the case.

The expropriation case has been re-raffled to RTC Branch 35 presided by Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo S. Amular.

Last Nov. 18, Judge Amular ordered “to suspend further proceedings in this case in the interest of judicial fairness, respect to the Honorable Supreme Court, and for practical considerations.”

Judge Amular ruled that they will have to wait for the SC decision on MORE Power’s petition for review against the Mandaluyong RTC’s ruling against Republic Act 11212.