Declaring a premature win

Members of the Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe. Photo from Hermz Gacho
Members of the Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe. Photo from Hermz Gacho

The struggle between Panay Electric Co. (PECO) and More Electric and Power Corp. (More Power) to obtain a congressional franchise for power service to Iloilo City continues at the legislative chambers.

Senator Grace Poe who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services in the 17th Congress has held two hearings after House Bill 8302 “An Act Granting More Electric and Power Corp. an electricity distribution utility franchise for the City of Iloilo” was approved by the Committee on Legislative Franchises chaired by Hon. Franz E. Alvarez in September 18, 2018.

The Committee on Public Services held its first hearing in October 22, 2018 after HB 8302 was transmitted to the Senate.

In the hearing, Iloilo City was well-represented by Anti-PECO Councilors Plaridel Nava and Joshua Alim, Dr. Pacita Gonzalez and SAP Bong Go campaigner Jane Javellana. Also, in attendance was Narzalina Lim of the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation (ILEDF).

The hearing discussed the issues surrounding PECO’s application for renewal of franchise and More Power’s approved franchise from Congress. Sen. Grace Poe listened on the issues presented by Anti-PECO crusaders and declared that More Power’s franchise is “approved by principle.” Sen. Poe then proceeded to form a Technical Working Group which will discuss a smooth transition from PECO to More Power.

This development earned hundreds of thumbs-up, wows, and heart emoticons from the Facebook friends of the Anti-PECO crusaders as they declared “justice served’ to Iloilo City consumers against PECO.

A 95-year old company was declared “without franchise” on social media in an unprecedented effort of less than a year led by two popular Iloilo City councilors and one stunning businesswoman who is known to be just a phone call away from the powers that be in the current administration. The political maneuver is praiseworthy for it has never been done by anybody in the corridors of power.

However, in November 8, 2018, the Committee on Public Services again conducted what it called a TWG (Technical Working Group) meeting. This time Sen. Grace Poe was absent and it was Atty. Angelo Buenviaje, Jr., Chief of Staff of Sen. Poe, who presided over the meeting.

Among those who were present from Iloilo City were the following: Councilor Plaridel Nava, Councilor Joshua Alim, Councilor R Leone Gerochi who was a representative by Mayor Jose Espinosa III, Narzalina Lim of ILEDF, and Ted Aldwin Ong of the group Freedom From Debt Coalition-Iloilo.

Not one of the 11-member committee attended the meeting. But Sen. Win Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, was present.

It was Sen. Gatchalian who asked some of the more pointed questions and he was the one who brought up relevant concerns to the representatives of More Power led by its CEO Roel Castro. Expectedly, the Anti-PECO crusaders failed to bring into the table real concerns of the consumers on the event of a transition with the exception of FDC who informed the Committee that it has submitted an intervention to the ERC in order to allow them to participate in the process for the protection of consumer’s interest.

At the start of the meeting, Atty. Buenviaje presented the agenda for the day. Item No. 2 revealed that PECO’s application for renewal of franchise is still pending at the House of Representatives. In the words of the presiding officer: “PECO, well, in the last information that I have is still in the committee level, or at the very least, for second reading approval of the House of Representatives.”

Furthermore, the consideration on the table that we have today is the franchise of More Power Electric and the transition “but if the House will come up with a version of an approved PECO. Of course, that is a consideration that will be revived back in the Philippine Senate. We shall wait for all eventualities.”

Ideally, the cart is pulled by a horse, but in this particular case the anti-PECO crusaders had moved the cart ahead of the horse on the bid to earn instant gratification. These facts only state that they are misleading the public by declaring that they already won for the consumers. To Iloilo City consumers, be vigilant of people who uses consumers issues to push forward their personal interest.