By: Alex P. Vidal
“Fairness is not an attitude. It’s a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.” – Brit Hume
IF they continue to treat the Panay Electric Company (PECO) like one of those Bilibid heinous crime inmates scandalously released by Faeldon and his corrupt cohorts, Ilonggos might be emboldened to rally behind the beleaguered power firm owned by the Cacho family.
They should refrain from treating PECO like a useless and hardened criminal.
PECO is a legitimate corporation manned by professionals with technical skills and managerial expertise on power distribution on a mammoth scale.
It’s not a sorority group or a fraternity organization that can just be disbanded easily.
Even if it is being stripped of its dignity and subjected to all kinds of insults and humiliation, PECO has continued to hang on for its dear life.
PECO wants to stay or continue with its service to the Ilonggos under the principle of free competition; it doesn’t demand to be given special treatment through a sole or exclusive franchise like it used to enjoy. It does not agitate to kill or eliminate a competitor.
And it appears that with the Court of Appeals as PECO’s next hope to provide them a lease of life, PECO is like a cat with nine lives, not just a palooka who succumbs without giving a good fight.
After anti-PECO advocates elbowed, sucker-punched and kneed PECO on the chin, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises joined the fray and kicked PECO while already grimacing on the ground.
This is the type of overkill that makes the Ilonggos unite; the type of persecution that will hurt the Ilonggos who love the underdogs regardless of the issues surrounding the tumult.
Bullying PECO should be the last thing its enemies should do.
And irresponsible statements coming from Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel would be the perfect recipe to swing sympathies in favor of the much-maligned PECO.
PECO’s franchise expired on Jan. 18, 2019. Instead of renewing it, Congress gave PECO’s rival, MORE Power, the authority to distribute power in the city through RA 11212.
We can understand if Iloilo City lone district Rep. Julienne “Jamjam” Baronda will speak against PECO since she is from Iloilo City; she fully understands the issue and is very much aware of the divided sentiments among the power consumers.
But Pimentel, who is from faraway Surigao del Sur in Mindanao, can’t say with absolute certainty about PECO’s alleged failure or lack of success in its nearly 100 years of serving the Ilonggos as the sole power distributor in Iloilo City 180 barangays.
“PECO has not been providing good service. Electricity distribution is not the same as other businesses like a gasoline station or sari-sari store. This is more of service to the public. You have the responsibility to protect consumers’ welfare. PECO failed,” Pimentel was quoted by local reports based on his recent interview over DyFM Bombo Radyo Iloilo.
“What we did was to protect the interest of the people. Hindi kami ang may gusto niyan. Ang may gusto niyan ang taongbayan. Gusto nila mas magandang serbisyo ng power company.”
Listening to Pimental malign PECO is like listening to Limahong, a Chinese pirate and warlord who invaded the Philippines in 1574 and who never lived in Europe, denying “the Glory that was Greece and the Grandeur that was Rome.”
As a non-resident of Iloilo City, Pimentel’s remarks against PECO was uncalled for and conduct unbecoming.
As committee chair, the congressman from Mindanao isn’t supposed to take sides and pretend he speaks with full authority and knowledge on behalf of the consumers.
He should have taken the neutral ground and heard both sides of the coin in a fair and buttoned up hearing sans emotional and political distractions.
Grandstanding Pimental should apologize not only to PECO, but also to the Ilonggos for insulting their intelligence.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)