Court stops MORE Power from taking over PECO’s assets

Panay Electric Company (PECO) has secured a court order stopping More Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) from expropriating its power distribution assets.

PECO filed a petition for declaratory relief with application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction before the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 209 on March 6, 2019.

Named respondents were MORE Power, the Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), and all other governmental agencies tasked to implement Republic Act (RA) 11212.

In a five-page order, Presiding Judge Monique A. Quisumbing-Ignacio said PECO “was able to establish that the implementation or enforcement of Section 10 to 17 of RA 11212 will materially and substantially invade its rights to equal protection under the law, due process, and against unlawful taking of property since MORE Power, by invoking Section 10 and 17 of RA 11212, can easily take away, under the guise if eminent domain, PECO’s distribution assets.”

“Furthermore, there is an urgent need for a TRO.”

Section 10 of the law states: “The grantee may acquire such private property as is actually necessary for the realization of the purposes for which this franchise is granted, including but not limited to poles, wires, cables, transformers, switching equipment and stations, building, infrastructure, machineries and equipment previously, currently or actually used, or intended to be used.”

Section 17, on the other hand, states: “The provisional authority to operate during the transition period shall not be construed as extending the franchise of PECO after its expiration on Jan. 18, 2019, and it shall not prevent the grantee from exercising the right of eminent domain over the distribution assets existing at the franchise area…”

RA 11212 allows MORE Power to distribute electricity in Iloilo City for 25 years. It was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Feb. 14, 2019 and took effect on March 6, 2019.

In its petition, PECO said the “authority granted to MORE Power for the taking of PECO’s assets is arbitrary and confiscatory” and “the law authorizes taking that is not for a public purpose.”

“The Constitution itself provides that ‘private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation,” PECO stressed.

The Cacho-led power firm said “the delegated eminent domain authority granted under the assailed provisions all but hostages PECO to turn over its assets and business to MORE power.”

“While the grant of the power to a franchisee is not unusual, the targeting of PECO’s specific assets makes such grant of power constitutionally infirm.”

This, according to PECO, “amounts to a confiscation of property that may not be exercised by the State nor delegated to a private person in blatant disregard of the constitutionally protected property rights of another.”

MORE Power president Roel Castro they respect the the courts decision granting PECO the 20-day TRO.

The TRO will take effect within days from PECO’s posting of a P5- million bond.

On March 11, 2019, MORE Power filed a petition for expropriation before the Iloilo Hall of Justice.

The Razon-led firm, in its petition, said the expropriation of PECO’s assets in its favor would allow it to “immediately address and correct poor services, overcharging, frequent brownouts, expensive rates, old and unsafe facilities and practices, and other service deficiencies that this city’s power users and consumers had long suffered”.

MORE Power said it is ready to immediately provide the estimated total value of PECO’s assets at more than P480 million.IMT

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