SC affirms More Electric’s authority to distribute electricity in Iloilo City

Published May 26, 2021, 1:57 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court (SC)

The Supreme Court (SC) has stood pat on its Sept. 15, 2020 decision that affirmed the authority of More Electric and Power Corporation (MORE) to operate the electricity distribution facilities in Iloilo City.

In a resolution made public last May 25, the SC denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Panay Electric Company, Inc. (PECO).

The denial of the motion, in effect, means the 2020 decision has become final and executory.

The 2020 decision granted the two petitions filed by MORE against PECO, specifically the case that challenged the Mandaluyong City trial court’s ruling which declared unconstitutional certain provisions in MORE’s franchise.

With its decision, the SC, in effect, upheld the validity of MORE’s franchise under Republic Act No. 11212 that was enacted into law on Feb. 14, 2019.

A statement issued by the SC in 2020 stated that “in granting the petitions, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the regional trial court (RTC) of Mandaluyong City Branch 209 in Civil Case No. R-MND-19-00571, and declared Sections 10 and 17 of RA No. 11212 constitutional.”

The original franchisee in Iloilo City was PECO) but it failed to renew its franchise when it expired.

In 2019, the Mandaluyong City RTC – on a case lodged by PECO — declared unconstitutional Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212.

Sections 10 and 17 authorized MORE to “establish, operate, and maintain, for commercial purposes and in the public interest, a distribution system for the conveyance of electric power to end users in Iloilo City.”

The two sections gave MORE, 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 elevated the issue before the SC which issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that stopped the implementation of the trial court’s ruling.

The SC said:

“Clearly, in granting MORE the right to exercise eminent domain, the primordial concern of the Congress is the welfare of the residents of Iloilo City who rely on the distribution system of PECO. There is no question that PECO’s franchise was not renewed, thus, it can no longer operate the distribution system in Iloilo City.

“MORE as the new franchisee, is mandated under Section 2 of R.A. No. 11212 to operate and maintain the distribution system in the best manner possible. To be able to do so, its right to expropriate the distribution system in Iloilo City to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity should not be hampered by unfounded allegations of undue benefit and corporate takeover.

“The power of eminent domain is exercised by the Legislature. However, it may be delegated by Congress to the President, administrative bodies, local government units and even to private enterprise performing public services.

“In sum, expropriation by MORE of the distribution system of PECO under Section 10 and 17 of R.A. No. 11212 serves both the general public interest of conveying power and electricity in Iloilo City and the peculiar public interest and security of ensuring the uninterrupted supply of electricity.”