By: Francis Allan L. Angelo
IS PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte now dipping his hands into the tug-of-war between Panay Electric Co. (Peco) and MORE Electric and Power Co. (MORE) over the power distribution services in Iloilo City?
Two news articles ran by the online sites of the Manila Times and the Daily Tribune on July 16, 2019 cited Pres. Duterte as saying that he will look into the legal basis of a decision of the Regional Trial Court in Mandaluyong City that nullified two provisions of MORE’s congressional franchise, Republic Act 11212.
“Ako (I)… I’ll go to Supreme Court and ask the Supreme Court to look into the basis of that. You know Iloilo, at this age and time, is suffering from a rotational brownout and in Palawan ganun din (it’s the same). So, ako naman I am in a hurry because I have three years left. Maski lang naman (Even just), I can comply with that promise,” the Manila Times quoted Duterte as saying in an interview organized to preview his next State of the Nation Address on July 22.
The report said that Duterte made the statement days after the Mandaluyong City RTC Branch 209 ruled in favor of Peco by declaring certain provisions of the franchise of Razon-owned MORE Power as “void and unconstitutional for infringing on Peco’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law.”
The Daily Tribune reported Mr. Duterte as firing off “a warning shot against the cavalier way that injunction and temporary restraining orders (TRO) are issued on business projects particularly on contracts of his flagship infrastructure and on cases involving drug trafficking.”
The news report also quoted the cases of power distribution services in Iloilo and Palawan.
But Marcelo Cacho, Peco administrative officer, called the online reports as “news spins” and “PR jobs.”
Cacho said they verified with their sources in Malacañang if Pres. Duterte granted exclusive interviews to the two news outlets.
He said Malacañang would usually release videos and transcripts of exclusive interviews with the President, especially if he calls out certain personalities or entities.
“But it appears, based on our Malacañang sources, that there was no such interview due to the lack of videos or transcripts from the press office. We have noticed similar news items before by these two outlets that always take a swipe at us,” Cacho added.
Cacho said the news reports appear to influence certain parties that could affect the outcome of their legal battles with MORE.
In a ruling dated July 1, 2019 and signed by Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio, the Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 said that Peco has no obligation to sell its assets, and MORE Power has no right to expropriate Peco’s properties.
“The temporary restraining order dated 14 March 2019 in so far as it enjoins respondent More and/or any of its representatives from enforcing any of the rights and obligations set forth under RA (Republic Act) 11212, including but not limited to commencing or pursuing the expropriation proceedings against petitioner More under the assailed provisions and takeover by respondent More of petitioner Peco’s distribution assets in the franchise area is hereby made permanent,” the ruling said.
Meanwhile, MORE Power counsel Hector Teodosio said they will oppose the latest legal actions of Peco against his client.
Peco filed another petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals in Cebu after its first petition for certiorari failed to secure a temporary restraining order from the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo.
Teodosio said Peco also wants to delay the expropriation case filed by MORE by again filing an Omnibus Motion to Dismiss and Archive the case with RTC-Iloilo, claiming that the RTC Mandaluyong has already decided and ruled that Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212 are unconstitutional.