ILOILO CITY — Panay Electric Co., Inc. (PECO), the embattled power distributor in lloilo City, filed a criminal case against two outgoing councilors and two other persons for allegedly damaging the company’s reputation.

The complaint, which seeks P100 million in damages, named as respondents Iloilo City Councilors Joshua C. Alim and Plaridel C. Nava, Presidential Consultant for Western Visayas Jane Javellana, and Iloilo resident Marigold T. Gonzalez, daughter of the late Justice secretary Raul M. Gonzalez Sr.

In the 11-page complaint filed June 27, PECO Administrative Manager Marcelo U. Cacho allegeed that the four falsifies some 27,000 signatures in a manifesto opposing the renewal of PECO’s congressional franchise.

According to Mr. Cacho, the manifesto was submitted by Messrs. Nava and Alim to the Senate committee on public services during the hearing to discuss PECO’s franchise on Oct 22.

The same manifesto was also submitted to the House committee on legislative franchises.

Mr. Cacho said the use of falsified documents is a violation under Articles 171 and 172 of the Revised Penal Code.

PECO also charged the four with cyber-libel under Section 4(c), Paragraph 4 of Republic Act (RA) 10175, the Cybercrime Law.

Citing the contents of the manifesto, PECO said the four sought the help of some individuals, including barangay officials, to gather 300 signatures from each of the 180 barangays in Iloilo City, or a total of 54,000 signatures, to support their position before Congress.

The group, however, only gathered 3,500 signatures, according to Mr. Cacho, thus the signature gatherers were allegedly “compelled to affix around 24,000 more fictitious signatures on the petition.”

Aside from the alleged fake signatures, Mr. Cacho said the respondents maligned PECO before Congress by making “bloated allegations” of overbilling, billing without meter reading, and other alleged instances of poor service by the power distributor.

The complaint said the P100-million claim represents the “amount of investment, equipment, and facilities, which complainant (PECO) had spent and invested in building its business throughout its 95-year existence and service to the entire Iloilo community.”

Mr. Alim, in a phone interview, rejected the allegations and said the signatories came from various groups.

He said, “We only accepted the signatures that were submitted to us. There are a lot of groups who gathered the signatures because it’s a team effort. We just collated it. For now, we cannot comment much because we have yet to read the complaint.” — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo