Iloilo City’s dilemma
HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - November 9, 2019 - 12:00am

The battle for control over the right to distribute electricity in Iloilo City is becoming bloodier as the days go by.

This was after the Court of Appeals recently denied a petition filed by Panay Electric Co. (PECO) to stop More Electric and Power Corp., a company controlled by businessman Enrique Razon, from expropriating the former’s power distribution assets. According to CA Associate Justice Alfredo Ampuan, as long as More has a valid legislative franchise as a distribution utility, it can exercise the power of eminent domain as provided for under Section 23 of the EPIRA law.

PECO, which has been distributing electricity in Iloilo City for the last century until its franchise expired and Congress refused to extend, said that unless the temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction are issued, this will result in grave and irreparable damage as it will cease operation, plunging the city into darkness.

The CA noted that only the Supreme Court can stop the implementation of any portion of EPIRA, which provides for the power of eminent domain by distribution utilities in their franchise areas.

But then, PECO said the CA ruling has been mooted after the Supreme Court, in another case, required More to show cause why it should not be declared in contempt for continuing with the expropriation.

The Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court earlier declared Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212 or More’s legislative franchise as void and unconstitutional and enjoined More from proceeding with the expropriation. PECO revealed that More questioned the RTC ruling before the SC while seeking a TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction. The prayer for TRO was denied, PECO said.

As the legal battle ensues, the mayor of Iloilo City has decided to join the fray and has asked the Office of the President (OP) to direct the Energy Regulatory Commission to do something about PECO’s alleged failure to solve the problem of antiquated transmission lines, wooden electricity poles which easily burn down as electricity lines get cut easily by strong winds, and rusting transformers blowing up.

According to local reports, City Mayor Jerry Treñas has had it after nine incidents of fire from Oct. 19 to 21 alone affected dilapidated and aged wooden electricity poles owned by PECO. Treñas asked Malacañang to act decisively to solve the threat to public safety posed by the inadequately-maintained lines, power outages and hazardous electric posts.

Treñas said he could no longer ignore his constituents’ complaints against PECO. The mayor pointed out that while his office has exerted vigorous efforts to prod PECO to solve the problem of electricity pole fires, he was obliged to take the necessary steps by asking Malacañang’s intervention to address the needs of the people.

He explained that as the agency mandated under the EPIRA law to handle consumer complaints to ensure promotion of consumer interests, the ERC had been given disciplinary powers to address the numerous consumer complaints against PECO.

False information

Just recently, officials of a major beauty supplements company filed a complaint against several individuals who have allegedly been spreading false information on social media.

Noveau Philippines Corp. and Noveau Japan Co. Ltd. lodged a cyberlibel complaint before the NBI accompanied by their lawyers Ferdinand Topacio at Julius Danas.

In the complaint submitted to special investigator Rojun Hosillos of the NBI cybercrime division and agent-in-charge Baden Alonzo, Noveau Philippines claimed that several posts on Facebook pointed to them as being involved in in estafa, while the Japan firm was accused on social media of being under surveillance by the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission in Japan for unsound business practices.

The two companies said there was absolutely no truth to these information being spread about them on social media.

For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com

ENRIQUE RAZON
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