IN a landmark decision, the Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 23 has directed More Electric and Power Corporation (MORE) to return the operations of substations and other power distribution utilities that they took over last week to Panay Electric Company (PECO).
During a hearing Friday, Iloilo RTC Presiding Judge Emerald Requinto-Contreras ordered MORE to give back power distribution operations to PECO pending the release of their own Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
Contreras declared that MORE should follow the addendum that states PECO personnel should be the ones to operate the power distribution facilities and MORE employees should only observe as part of their immersion into the service.
The presiding judge also said that she is still not sure about the capability of MORE to operate the facilities and by returning the operations to PECO, the court is protecting the consumers from the possibility of power outages.
“The decision of the Iloilo RTC to direct MORE to give back power distribution operations to PECO is a crucial development because it proves that everything that we have been saying in the past few weeks is true,” Atty Estrella Elamparo, PECO legal counsel, stressed.
It was reported that MORE still has no standing Power Service Agreement (PSA) and the company is still using PECO’s contracts in doing power distribution, contrary to the claims of MORE.
During Friday’s hearing, PECO supporters and employees swarmed and overwhelmed the Hall of Justice and were allowed in by Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo Amular to pray while the proceedings were ongoing.
In a related development, the ERC yesterday said that it will be revoking the CPCN of PECO. PECO lawyers, however, said that this is not yet final since they have not received any such directive yet.
“The order of the ERC regarding the alleged revocation of the PECO CPCN is not yet final and, in fact, has not been officially received by PECO,” Elamparo revealed. “Moreover, the order was premised on misrepresentations made by MORE,” she added.
“We are hopeful that once we are able to apprise the ERC of the true situation that’s happening on ground, they will not only reverse this order but should also deny outright the application of MORE for a CPCN,” Elamparo said.
Last week, MORE forcibly took over some substations of PECO on the strength of a writ of possession issued by the same RTC. Afterwards, MORE announced that they were already in Iloilo City and that they had taken full control of the facilities.
PECO contested this Order, stating that it is illegal as there is a pending petition in the Supreme Court in relation to the expropriation case and alluding to Contreras’ bias in the case. According to PECO, MORE has no legal basis to push through with the takeover since the case is still pending in the Supreme Court.
PECO also claimed that MORE has no CPCN and thus has no right to provide power distribution services in Iloilo despite holding a legislative franchise.
MORE does not have any power distribution facility in Iloilo and does not have enough employees of its own to man the PECO substations they took over.