ANOTHER JUDGE at the Iloilo Regional Trial Court (RTC) has inhibited herself from the expropriation case filed by new player MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) against Panay Electric Co., Inc. (PECO), citing ties with the latter’s owners.

“Owners of PECO, Mr. Jose Mari Cacho and Sandra Cacho are very close friends of the undersigned since they are members of an organization called ‘Beyond I Do’ wherein its regular meetings are usually held in the house of Mr. Cacho,” Judge Ma. Theresa Enriquez-Gaspar of RTC Branch 33 said in an order issued Jan. 24.

The judge added that she is a medical patient of Mr. Cacho’s wife.

Ms. Gaspar further said that the clerk in charge of civil cases in her court is related to an employee of MORE Power.

“The head of the PDM-Substation Project Development and Management Department of MORE, Mr. Wilmar J. Gonzaludo, is the husband of the clerk in charge of civil cases in this Court, Ma. Wienna Gonzaludo,” she said.

The expropriation case was first assigned to Branch 37 under Judge Yvette Marie D. Go, who inhibited from the case after granting MORE Power’s petition for a writ of possession.

PECO has filed an appeal.

Next to handle the case was Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo S. Amular of Branch 35, who inhibited from the case after seeking advice from RTC Executive Judge Victor E. Gelvezon.

“Notwithstanding that the Presiding Judge performs his duties in accordance with the conscientious dictate of his conscience and the applicable provisions of law, it has come to a point that whatever judgment the Presiding Judge would render in the case would not be accepted by either the plaintiff or the defendant or maybe tainted with bias,” Mr. Amular said.

Mr. Amular also suggested the transfer of the expropriation case outside of Iloilo, describing the proceedings as having become “too politicized.”

PECO’s has petitioned the Supreme Court to move the legal proceedings, but was denied.

PECO’s renewal application for its franchise, which expired last Jan. 19, was denied by Congress. A new franchise was granted to MORE Power under Republic Act 11212.

PECO is currently operating under a provisional authority issued by the Energy Regulatory Commission on May 24, 2019, a day before the expiration of its certificate of public convenience and necessity.

PECO filed and won a case before a Mandaluyong RTC questioning the constitutionality of MORE Power’s franchise, but the Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the decision. The case is under appeal. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo