‘Resolve More Power vs. PECO case,’ Iloilo City consumers urge SC 

Published August 21, 2020, 3:16 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

About 65,000 electricity consumers in Iloilo City have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to settle immediately the legal issues between two distribution utilities – franchise holder More Electric and Power Corp. (More Power) and the Panay Electric Co. (PECO).

The plea was aired by Halley Alcarde, general manager of Western Visayas Transport Cooperative (WVTC), who told the SC that the High Court’s ruling would have tremendous impact on consumers.

A check with the SC showed that the petition filed by More Power against PECO and the Mandaluyong City regional trial court (RTC) will be tackled in next week’s full court session

Pending with the SC is a petition filed by More Power which sought a reversal of the ruling of the Mandaluyong City RTC that declared certain provisions of More Power’s congressional franchise as unconstitutional.

Last year, the SC issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) which stopped the trial court from implementing its decision that declared Sections 10 and 17 of Republic Act No. 11212 (More Power’s franchise) as unconstitutional.

Sections 10 and 17 granted More Power, as the new distribution utility in Iloilo City, the powers of eminent domain and to expropriate any asset, including existing distribution assets in the city.

More Power had secured the franchise after both chambers of Congress ignored PECO’s application to renew its franchise which expired last January 18, 2019.

In a press statement, Alcarde that in resolving the legal issue the SC should “take into consideration the plight of the 65,000 power consumers in the city who will be directly impacted by the decision of the court.”

Alcarde said that More Electric holds the legislative franchise to operate the electricity distribution system of Iloilo City, and has been granted a business permit by the Iloilo City government and Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

But he said PECO continues to question the takeover of its business operations saying it was unconstitutional.

Alcarde said “More Electric has proven itself capable to manage the distribution system of Iloilo City even if it has only been in operation for six months.”

“Consumers were able to experience better, more reliable and efficient services from More Power in the past six months compared to PECO’s operations which has lasted for several decades,” he said.

“We know that in terms of legal issues, the SC justices will look at the rule of law but we hope they can also consider the appeal of the consumers and prioritize it…,” he added.

Last March, the SC assured all electric consumers in Iloilo City that its decisions “are always founded on facts, applicable laws, and current jurisprudence.”

SC Spokesperson and public information office (PIO) Chief Atty. Brian Keith F. Hosaka said: “The SC is composed of 15 justices and its actions are based on the majority vote of the members en banc (full court) or of a division. That is how the SC acts as mandated by our Constitution, and that is why it will always be objective and independent.”

Hosaka’s statement was the SC’s reaction to Party-List Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano who claimed that the SC is biased in favor of More Electric to the prejudice of PECO.