SC sides with MORE in Iloilo power rift

THE Supreme Court (SC), voting 8-6, has finally affirmed the control of More Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) over the power distribution business in Iloilo City.

SC Spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said the Court en banc reached the decision during its regular en banc session held on Tuesday.

He said the Court ruled to reverse and set aside the order issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Mandaluyong City and declared Sections 10 and 17 of Republic Act (RA) 11212 (MORE Power’s franchise) as constitutional.

The said provisions give MORE Power the powers of eminent domain and to expropriate any asset, including existing distribution assets in the city.

Panay Electric Co. Inc. (PECO) and MORE Power have been engaged in a legal tussle over the control of the Iloilo City power distribution.

MORE Power started the process of taking over PECO’s electricity distribution facilities after securing the 15-year franchise from Congress in 2019 following the expiration of PECO’s franchise on January 19, 2019.

MORE Power filed the expropriation case against PECO’s distribution assets after securing its congressional franchise.

Last December 2019, the SC issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the Mandaluyong RTC from implementing its decision against MORE Power.

The TRO paved the way for the expropriation of PECO’s assets by MORE Power.

“In granting the petition, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong City Branch 209…and declared Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212 constitutional,” the SC said.

PECO’s camp has expressed disappointment over the Court’s decision favoring MORE Power, but it also noted the magistrates’ close vote on the issue.

The company said the ruling would have “reverberating consequences that open the power of expropriation to abuse.”

“The tight vote lends support to our position that the takeover of PECO’s properties is not the exercise of eminent domain contemplated by our laws, but a violation of constitutional rights,” PECO lawyer Estrella Elamparo said.

Elamparo also questioned the timing of the release of the decision, saying it was done 4 days before Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., who was the justice-in-charge of the case, retired from the Court.

“Curiously, the ponente proceeded with the decision just 4 days before his retirement from the judiciary. Although this is a massive hurdle, we will not give up on our fight and we will continue to pursue the available legal remedies to defend PECO’s constitutional rights,” Elamparo said.

“Despite this temporary setback, we remain optimistic that we will ultimately be vindicated not just for PECO, but for the people of Iloilo,” she added.

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