Beyond its power

March 02, 2020

It should be clear as daylight, indeed.

After all, it does not say “Regulatory Trial Courts”.

It is Regional Trial Courts, stupid!

And they have no jurisdiction over cases involving electricity rate, according to a member of the House of Representatives.

Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, chairman of the House justice committee, questioned the decision of Mandaluyong RTC Branch 208 to entertain a case filed by South Premier Power Corp., an affiliate of San Miguel Corp., contesting its overdue payments to government amounting to P23.94 billion on the administration of the 1,200-megawatt  Ilijan power plant.

Veloso cited the Electric Power Industry Reform Act that granted original and exclusive jurisdiction to the Energy Regulatory Commission overall cases contesting rates and fees, as well as cases involving disputes between and among players in the energy sector.

He noted that the law does not allow courts lower than the Court of Appeals to meddle in cases involving electricity rates and other power-related issues.

“RTC judges should not entertain such petitions. I will bring up this matter of intervention with the Supreme Court,” he said.

Meanwhile, Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, chairman of the House public accounts committee, said a congressional inquiry has been conducted into the P95 billion worth of overdue receivables of Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. from power producers and electric cooperatives.

“Our inquiry is principally in aid of legislation, though we at the same time want to help the executive branch to collect this huge amount of receivables,” Defensor said.

He  also echoed Veloso’s claim, stating that Section 43 of EPIRA “is clear enough on jurisdiction over disputes.”

“But if it needs further clarification for all concerned, including judges, we can recommend remedial legislation,” Defensor said.

SMC said it had paid a total of P314.6 billion, consisting of P73.9 billion in fixed monthly payments and P240.7 billion in generation charges.

PSALM, however, insisted that the SMC still owed the government P23.94 billion.

PSALM has vowed to continue its vigorous collection efforts to go after Independent Power Producer Administrators with delinquent accounts totaling a whopping P33.62 billion following instructions from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to pursue all legal remedies to compel these IPPAs to pay at once.

If the P33.62-billion delinquent accounts remain unpaid by the IPPAs, PSALM will incur an annual borrowing cost of about P1.7 billion a year.