Why PECO lost its franchise

August 23, 2020

A RULING by the Department of Justice (DOJ) junking the abuse of power case filed by the former Iloilo City distribution utility Panay Electric Co. (PECO) protected consumers’ rights which is the basis for Congress’ decision to grant the distribution franchise to another company.

Former Iloilo City Councilor Joshua Alim said that had PECO listened to the complaints of its customers over decades of running the city’s power distribution system, there would have been no petition to stop the renewal of its franchise which expired in January 2019.

The DOJ had ruled against PECO which had accused Alim and colleague former Iloilo City Councilor Plaridel Nava II, and two others, including now Presidential Consultant for Western Visayas Jane Javellana and Dr. Marigold Gonzalesof falsifying the signature of 27,000 Ilonggos in a petition that became the basis for Congress’ non-renewal of PECO’s franchise.

In a decision recently penned by DOJ Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento, charges of conspiracy and falsification of public documents filed by PECO against its critics were “dismissed for utter lack of merit.” The joint resolution dismissing the case was also signed by DOJ State Prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Pacamarra and Senior State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon.

The DOJ noted that “it is clear as the day that the respondents did not falsify any document.”

“The cancellation of PECO’s franchise is not just our victory. It is the victory of all consumers who fought hard against the oppressive PECO,” Nava said.

Alim said PECO continues to remain deaf to the pleas of consumers. “PECO’s abuses and arrogance towards its consumers brought them to their total rest. Had they listened to the pleas and complaints of their consumers from the very start they could have stayed alive,” Alim said. 

PECO claimed the manifesto, which was signed by 27,000 persons, was falsified and was used in favor of another applicant, referring to MORE Power.

“It’s pretty obvious from the very start that Mr. Cacho of PECO has no legal basis in filing those cases against us. It was a harassment tactic just to get even with us after its franchise was not acted upon favorably by the Committee on Legislative Franchises in the Lower House,” Alim said.

“PECOs abuses and arrogance towards its consumers brought them to their total rest. Had they listened to the pleas and complaints of their consumers from the very start they could have stayed alive. Praise God for this,” he added.

Jane Javellana, who is now the Presidential Consultant for Western Visayas, meanwhile said that PECO’s charges were aimed not only to humiliate but to harass them.

“It’s definitely a case of harassment to intimidate and stop us to do the right thing. But we knew that it was a fight worth fighting for.  The Ilonggos deserve better and we deserve more from our electric distributor.  Indeed, this victory is sweet and a victory that is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price. Thank God we did it!” she said.

PECO operated the city’s distribution system for more than 90 years, but its franchise expired January last year. Congress granted to MORE Power the franchise to operate the distribution system to ensure continuous and uninterrupted supply of electricity in the city.

The franchise mandated MORE Power to modify, improve, upgrade, and change the distribution facilities, systems, or the management and maintenance of the distribution facility and to continuously improve its facilities and employ the latest technology and innovations that promote efficiency and is beneficial to consumers.