THE appellate court’s denial of Panay Electric Co., Inc.’s (PECO) petition to block the expropriation case filed by MORE Electric and Power Corp. has been mooted by a ruling by the Supreme Court (SC), the Iloilo-based electricity distributor said.

“The Court of Appeals case is already moot and has been overtaken by events because the matter is now with the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land. The SC has already ruled in favor of PECO in denying MORE’s prayer for temporary restraining order sought by MORE,” said Estrella C. Elamparo, legal counsel of PECO, in a statement on Sunday.

The 95-year-old company made the statement after MORE distributed to reporters the Oct. 3 decision by the 18th division of the Court of Appeals (CA) of Cebu City.

“The SC has, in fact, required MORE to show cause why it should not be declared in contempt for continuing with the expropriation. A CA ruling cannot supplant a Supreme Court ruling and if MORE attempts to proceed with the expropriation, it will be answerable to the SC,” the lawyer said.

PECO said it had filed a motion to withdraw the petition on Sept. 24 to the CA since the case was already with the Supreme Court at the time. The company also said the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court (RTC) rendered judgment in the petition for declaratory relief on July 11, 2019 declaring Sections 10 and 17 of Republic Act (RA) 11212 void and unconstitutional “for infringing on PECO’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law.”

RA 11212 granted MORE a franchise to establish, operate, and maintain, for commercial purposes and in the public interest, an electricity distribution system in Iloilo City.

PECO said the Mandaluyong RTC also enjoined MORE and any of its representatives from enforcing, implementing, and exercising any of the rights and obligations set forth under RA 11212, including but not limited to commencing or pursuing the expropriation proceedings against PECO under the assailed provisions, and from takeover by MORE of PECO’s distribution assets in the franchise area.

“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,” it quoted the Mandaluyong court as saying.

It said MORE questioned the judgment with the SC through a petition for review on certiorari while seeking a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction. But in a resolution dated Aug. 14, 2019, the high court denied MORE’s prayer for a TRO on the Mandaluyong court resolution.

Before PECO’s statement, MORE came out with a statement that the Court of Appeals had struck down the bid of PECO to stop the expropriation of its electricity distribution assets in Iloilo City.

It said the court ruled to deny PECO’s petition for a temporary restraining order against the Iloilo City Regional Trial Court, and another petition for a writ of preliminary injunction against the same court, after it ordered the expropriation of PECO’s distribution assets by the new franchise holder MORE.

The CA noted that Congress granted MORE its franchise as part of its powers under Sections 22 and 27 of Republic Act. No. 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which provided the legal framework for the restructuring of the electric power industry.

It said under EPIRA, only the Supreme Court can stop the implementation of any portion of that law, which includes the power of eminent domain by distribution utilities in their franchise areas. — Victor V. Saulon