By: Francis Allan L. Angelo
THE Supreme Court sitting as en banc (in bench) unanimously granted the motion of MORE Electric and Power Corp for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Regional Trial Court Branch 209 in Mandaluyong City and rival firm Panay Electric Co.
In a resolution on G.R. No. 248061 (MORE Power v PECO) dated Dec 3, 2019, the SC restrained RTC Branch 209 Judge Monique A. Quisumbing-Ignacio and PECO from implementing the July 1, 2019 judgment in Civil Case No. R-MND-19-00571 (PECO v MORE Power, et al).
The RTC ruling declared as void and unconstitutional Sections 10 and 17 of Republic Act No. 11212, the law which gave MORE Power the franchise to distribute power in Iloilo City.
Section 10 of RA 11212 authorizes MORE to exercise the power of eminent domain and acquire such private property as is actually necessary for the realization of the purpose for which the franchise is granted.
Section 17 states the power of MORE, as grantee, to effectively acquire power distribution assets. The distribution assets that exist within the franchise area could only refer to those of PECO.
The Mandaluyong RTC’s ruling also made permanent a TRO it issued on March 14, 2019, which restrained RA 11212.
Based on the SC resolution, the TRO against RTC Branch 209 and PECO is “effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Court.”
“NOW, THEREFORE, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Court, You, Branch 209, Regional Trial Court, Mandaluyong City and respondent Panay Electric Company, Incorporated, your agents, representatives, or persons acting on your place or stead, are hereby commanded and directed to cease and desist from implementing the Judgment dated July 1, 2019 issued in Civil Case No. R-MND-19-00571 (Panay Electric Company, Inc. vs. MORE Electric and Power Corporation, et al.) which, among others, declared void and unconstitutional Sections 10 and 17 of Republic Act No. 11212 and made permanent the Temporary Restraining Order dated March 14, 2019.”
The SC en banc issued the TRO after accepting the case from its First Division based on the latter’s resolution dated November 20, 2019.
The case sought to invalidate the Mandaluyong RTC’s ruling on MORE Power’s franchise.
PECO, whose franchise expired in January 2019, sought to nullify MORE Power’s franchise claiming that it was arbitrary and confiscatory.
In a statement, MORE Power president and CEO Roel Castro said they are happy with the SC’s unanimous resolution.
Castro said the SC resolution proves three things:
-MORE Power has a clear and unmistakable right to be protected;
-there is material and substantial invasion of such right;
-there is an urgent need for the writ to prevent irreparable injury to MORE Power; and
-no other ordinary, speedy, and adequate remedy exists to prevent the infliction of irreparable injury other than the issuance of said Temporary Restraining Order.
“For MORE Power, this is but a manifestation of the rule of law. Republic Act No. 11212, or the law granting MORE Power its legislative franchise, was regularly passed by Philippine Congress and signed into law by the President,” Castro said.
Castro also rued that the Mandaluyong court’s ruling against their franchise “has been used repeatedly to cast doubt as to the propriety of the conduct of the hearing for the Expropriation Case in RTC Iloilo City.”
“Basic is the rule that every law has in its favor the presumption of constitutionality. To justify the nullification of Sections 10 and 17 of R.A. No. 11212, there must be a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, and not one that is doubtful, speculative, or argumentative,” he added.
MORE Power’s expropriation case seeks to take over PECO’s distribution assets citing RA 11212. But RTC-Iloilo Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo S. Amular suspended the hearing in deference to the SC case filed by MORE Power.
With the issuance of the TRO by the Supreme Court En Banc, Castro said they are confident “that the lower court will take its cue and decisively rule on the Application for the Issuance of the Writ of Possession.”
“With all due respect, the law and rules are clear: Upon compliance with the requirements, a petitioner in an expropriation case is entitled to a writ of possession AS A MATTER OF RIGHT and it becomes the ministerial duty of the trial court to forthwith issue the writ of possession.”