Expropriation case over Iloilo power remains with local court – Supreme Court

Lian Buan
Expropriation case over Iloilo power remains with local court – Supreme Court
The SC resolution is a point in favor of the Enrique Razon-owned MORE, whose franchise is being challenged by longtime-provider Panay Electric Company

MANILA, Philippines – As the legal battle for Iloilo power heats up, the Supreme Court (SC) said the case to take over the assets of Panay Electric Company (PECO) will stay with the Iloilo Regional Trial Court (RTC). 

It is one point in favor of the Enrique Razon-owned MORE Electric Power and Corporation, to which President Rodrigo Duterte granted the franchise to provide power for Iloilo, but which is being challenged by PECO.

PECO had requested the SC to transfer the expropriation case from Ilolilo RTC, saying the issue had been too publicized it might affect the decision of the judge.

“The mere possibility of prejudice is not sufficient to justify a transfer of venue, as aptly argued by respondent MORE,” said the SC in a resolution dated December 4, 2019, and made public on Monday, January 13, 2020.  

What expropriation? PECO had been providing power to Iloilo for 95 years, but their franchise was not renewed. Instead, Duterte granted the franchise to MORE, and by virtue of the law giving the franchise – Republic Act 11212 – the President also gave MORE the right to acquire the assets of PECO.

The takeover of the assets is the expropriation case. MORE went to the Iloilo RTC to start the takeover. On August 14, 2019, Iloilo RTC Branch 37 Judge Yvette Marie Go issued the writ of possession to MORE, saying that “the Complaint for Expropriation is sufficient in form and substance,” essentially greenlighting the takeover.

The case has since been re-raffled to Iloilo RTC Branch 35 Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo Amular.

Although MORE has the writ of possession from the Iloilo RTC, PECO secured a ruling from the Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 on July 1, 2019, declaring as unconstitutional Sections 10 and 17 of RA 11212, the provisions saying PECO should transition to giving MORE its facilities.

With two conflicting rulings, both PECO and MORE went to the Supreme Court, asking to declare invalid the local court decisions that were not favorable to them.

MORE welcomed the recent SC decision that allowed the expropriation case to stay with Iloilo RTC.

“The SC order denying the petition of PECO to transfer venue of the case is self-explanatory. Anyone who reads it will understand the meaning of it,” MORE said in a statement.

PECO argued that because the case had been raffled to another branch, it may create a scenario where two branches would come out with conflicting rulings.

The Supreme Court said the argument was moot because the High Court is already resolving the main issue. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.