The Supreme Court (SC) shut down the efforts of MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE), owned by businessman Ricky Razon, to expropriate the power distribution assets of Panay Electric Company (PECO) in Iloilo.
In a RESOLUTION (GR NO 248061) DATED 14 AUGUST 2019, the SC denied MORE’s prayer for an issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction against a previous Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court resolution that declared that the Razon-owned MORE’s expropriation and takeover of rival PECO’s electric distribution assets unconstitutional.
Republic Act 11212 granted MORE the franchise to distribute power in Iloilo City. Under Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212, MORE is authorized to exercise the power of eminent domain over all the distribution assets and properties of PECO in the franchise area.
The Mandaluyong RTC, however, declared Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212 void and unconstitutional for infringing on PECO’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law. The RTC also declared, “Consequently, PECO has no obligation to sell and MORE has no right to expropriate PECO’s assets under Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212; and, PECO’s rights to its properties are protected against arbitrary and confiscatory taking under the relevant portions of Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212.” See Mandaluyong Judgment.
When MORE appealed the Mandaluyong judgment to the Supreme Court, it asked for a TRO to enable it to proceed with the expropriation. Razon’s power firm is running against a two-year deadline under its franchise to begin operating, otherwise its franchise will be deemed automatically revoked.
With the SC’s denial of the TRO, MORE is prevented from proceeding with the expropriation while it is deciding whether to affirm the declaration of unconstitutionality by the Mandaluyong court.
Meanwhile, the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) issued by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) last May 21 allows PECO to continue to operate the distribution system until the establishment or acquisition by the grantee MORE of its own distribution system and its complete transition toward full operations, which will not exceed two years from the grant of the legislative franchise.
“Any expropriation efforts by Razon’s MORE has been disallowed by the Supreme Court and if they’re truly serious to serve the people of Iloilo, they will do what it takes to invest and do what Pres. Duterte has called on all businesses: BUILD, BUILD, BUILD, and not TAKE, TAKE, TAKE. And quoting the president himself: Wag mag-agaw ng negosyo,” PECO Administrative Manager Marcelo Cacho said in a press briefing.
In a separate RESOLUTION (GR NO 248061) DATED 02 SEPTEMBER 2019, the Supreme Court declared MORE’s conduct of “vigorously pursuing the expropriation case while appealing at the same time the judgment of the Mandaluyong RTC” as constituting “an insidious form of forum-shopping, both direct and indirect contempt.” The SC then resolved to require MORE and Judge Yvette Go of the Iloilo City RTC to file comment regarding this.
“Panay Electric Company has been serving Iloilo for the last 95 years. We would like to believe that in that span of time, we have been a major part of Iloilo’s journey towards development and economic prosperity,” Cacho noted.
“We will ensure that as we do the right thing—and we enjoin Ricky Razon’s MORE to also do the right thing—we will strengthen our resolve to continue serving and finding the best energy solutions for the people of Iloilo while abiding by whatever decision the Supreme Court hands down,” Cacho stressed.