CA issues TRO aganst RTC-ordered suspension of Iloilo power franchise turnover

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THE Court of Appeals (CA) said it issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the implementation of a Mandaluyong court order which had barred MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE) from taking over the assets of Panay Electric Company, Inc. (PECO).

In an eight-page resolution on March 28, the CA special seventeenth division issued a 60-day TRO against the March 12 decision of Mandaluyong City regional trial court (RTC) Branch 209. The RTC had issued a 20-day TRO on the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 11212 which granted MORE the franchise to operate in Iloilo City.

“The Court perceives more than adequate grounds for the grant thereof,” the CA ruled.

In issuing the TRO, the appellate court said PECO’s franchise to operate the distribution of electric power in Iloilo City had expired after its franchise to operate was granted to MORE.

It also said that under Section 78 of the Electric Power and Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, only the Supreme Court may issue an order enjoining the implementation of EPIRA, which includes RA 11212. The order of the RTC stops the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and Department of Energy (DoE) from performing their mandate, which is illegal.

The Court of Appeals also said that the TRO against the implementation of RA 11212 effectively extends the franchise of PECO, which is an authority vested only to the Congress.

“Wherefore, considering that the issues raised are of transcendental importance, and to avoid any grave and irreparable injury which would be suffered by petitioner pending disposition of the instant petition, and likewise so as not to render the outcome of the petition moot and academic, let a temporary restraining order issue effective for sixty days from service to the respondents,” the CA ruled.

The CA also gave MORE 10 days to pay P50 million for any damages PECO may suffer under this TRO. It also directed PECO to file its comment to the petition PECO within 10 days and explain why a writ of preliminary injunction should be issued against the order of the RTC.

Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio of Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 on March 12 issued a TRO against RA 11212 includiing the expropriation proceedings and takeover of PECO’s distribution assets in the franchise area and the issuance by the DoE and ERC of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which would authorize MORE to operate in the franchise area.

In the petition to the CA, MORE said Ms. Ignacio committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing a TRO against the implementation of Republic Act No. 11212.

The decision was written by Associate Justice Elihu A. Ybañez and concurred in by Associate Justices Nina G. Antonio-Valenzuela and Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas