PECO seeks ‘recall’ of writ for MORE Power

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: Emme Rose Santiagudo

PANAY Electric Co. (PECO) asked the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 37 in Iloilo City to recall the Aug 14, 2019 order granting the application for a writ of possession sought by MORE Electric and Power Corp.

The writ is part of the expropriation case filed by MORE in a bid to take over PECO’s distribution assets in Iloilo City.

PECO laid down its contention in a motion for reconsideration filed on Aug 23.

It again reiterated the Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 decision on July 1, 2019 declaring Sections 10 and 17 of Republic Act No. 11212 (which granted MORE Power the congressional franchise to distribute electricity in Iloilo City) “void and unconstitutional for infringing on PECO’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law”.

“It must be emphasized that indeed, with Sections 10 and 17 having been struck down as unconstitutional, any attempt to proceed with the expropriation including the issuance of the writ of possession will be completely baseless and illegal,” PECO’s motion reads.

Under Sec. 10 of RA 11212, MORE Power is authorized “to exercise the power of eminent domain in so far as it may be reasonable and necessary for the efficient establishment, improvement, upgrading, rehabilitation, maintenance and operation of services subject to limitations and procedures prescribed by law.”

Meanwhile, Sec. 17 of RA 11212 allows PECO to operate the existing distribution system within the franchise area until MORE Power establishes its own distribution system and completes its transition period which shall not exceed two years from the grant of the franchise.

MORE Power filed the expropriation case on March 11 pursuant to its exercise of the power of eminent domain.

PECO stressed that the “unconstitutional provisions of RA 11212 confer no right upon MORE Power and its alleged right to take over PECO’s assets is legally inexistent”.

“PECO cannot but emphasize the brazen and shameless forum shopping of plaintiff MORE when it prayed for a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court but at the same time, actively pursued is application of writ of possession. Not only this is a classic example of forum shopping, it is a blatant and contemptuous mockery of the court processes. It is not too late for the Honorable Court to rectify its grievous mistake. The Honorable Court is urgently called upon to recall the Order, dated August 14, 2019,” the motion said.

In opposition of PECO’s motion for reconsideration, MORE Power reiterated that the court has recognized the right of the plaintiff (MORE Power) to take over PECO’s assets as stated in Sec. 10 of RA 11212 and Rule 67, Section of the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure.

At the same time, MORE Power also asserted that there is already an established jurisprudence on the mater.

“The established jurisprudence is that the moment there is an application for writ of possession and a deposit has been made, and the plaintiff was granted by law the power of eminent domain, it is a bounded duty for the expropriation court to grant the writ of possession,” MORE Power said in its opposition.

Meanwhile, RTC Branch 35 Presiding Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo Amular gave the legal counsel of PECO until August 28, 2019 to submit their reply to MORE Power’s opposition.

To recall, Amular also issued a “gag order” on both the parties involved in the expropriation case on August 20, 2019.

The expropriation case was re-raffled to the RTC Branch 35 after RTC Branch 37 Presiding Judge Marie Yvette Go inhibited herself from hearing the case.

The gag order prohibits the counsels of PECO and MORE Power from disclosing any related information and making comments about the case to the public.

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

Judge Amular said the gag order would prevent the court from any extraneous influence.

“This court invoking the sub judice rule, hereby issues a Gag Order, immediately directing and ordering the parties, their counsels, and persons acting on their behalf to avoid any improper conduct tending directly or indirectly to impede, obstruct, or degrade, the administration of justice, thereby insulating the Court from extraneous influence.”