More Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision affirming the power distribution firm’s authority to operate in Iloilo City.
“This victory has definitely made every step of the year-long legal wrangle very much worth it despite PECO’s delaying tactics and fake news propaganda against us. The ruling, more than anything else, is a clear message by the High Tribunal that nothing is over and above the welfare of the general public,” said MORE Power President Roel Castro in a statement issued Thursday.
“This is definitely a major win for all of us, most especially for Iloilo power consumers who spent years, decades even, putting up with all the unbridled violations and inequities of the former utility distributor.”
Castro assured Iloilo consumers that MORE Power will continue to work hard to improve and modernize the distribution system in the city.
“We applaud the Supreme Court for making this decision and by standing alongside the advocacy of the people to finally oust a monopoly that has trampled on the rights of the Ilonggos for so long,” he added.
Lawmakers also made similar statements.
Iloilo City Rep. Julienne Baronda said Congress was confident early on that the SC will side with the lawmakers’ decision in granting MORE Power the franchise.
“We were confident since the start that the High Tribunal will uphold the Congressional franchise. We know we were acting within our legislative powers and took into account the promise of better service” Baronda said.
President Duterte signed the law granting the 25-year franchise to MORE Power as the sole power distributor on February 14, 2019.
As Iloilo City’s lone representative in Congress, Baronda had appealed to Panay Electric Co. (PECO) to respect the law and follow the decision of the SC.
“Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, the people of Iloilo City expect both camps to respect the law. We hope that More Power will now be able to fully fulfill its promises to us,” she added.
Surigao del Sur Representative Johnny Pimentel also shared the same view. “I believe that the Supreme Court made the right decision and with this ruling by the Supreme arbiter of our laws, PECO has no more recourse but to accept it.”
On an 8-6 vote, the SC favored the petition of MORE Power and reversed the July 2019 ruling of the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court that declared unconstitutional Sections 10 and 17 of Republic Act 11212.
Section 10 and Section 17 of the law gave MORE Power the power of eminent domain, and the power to expropriate or acquire the private assets of PECO including poles, wires, cables, transformers, switching equipment, stations and buildings, machinery and equipment which it uses in its operations.
PECO’s franchise lapsed on January 18, 2019. It failed to secure another franchise because lawmakers said PECO failed to address thousands of consumer complaints related to overbilling, poor customer service, power interruptions and fire incidents.