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High Court halts Mandaluyong RTC ruling vs MORE franchise

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ILOILO CITY — The Supreme Court (SC) has temporarily blocked the decision of a regional court in Mandaluyong that declared as void and unconstitutional some provisions of MORE Electric and Power Co.’s (MORE Power) new congressional franchise covering Iloilo City.

In a three-page temporary restraining order (TRO) issued Dec. 3, the country’s highest court directed Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Monique A. Quisumbing-Ignacio and the Panay Electric Co. (PECO), which filed the case, from implementing her decision issued in July.

“Effective immediately and continuing until further order from this Court, Branch 209 RTC in Mandaluyong and PECO, are hereby commanded and directed to cease and desist from implementing the judgement dated July 1, 2019 which declared Sections 10 and 17 of RA (Republic Act) 11212 void and unconstitutional and made permanent the TRO dated on March 14,” the SC order said.

Congress denied PECO’s application to renew its franchise that expired in January this year.

Sec. 10 of RA 11212, which contains MORE Power’s franchise, authorizes the company to exercise the power of eminent domain, meaning expropriate PECO’s existing assets.

Section 17 of the law allows PECO, which has been Iloilo City’s sole power distributor for 95 years, to operate the existing system until MORE Power establishes its own within a period of not more than two years.

PECO Legal Counsel Estrella C. Elamparo, in a phone interview on Wednesday, said they will “definitely” and “respectfully” ask the SC to reconsider the TRO.

She also said that MORE Power should not insinuate that the SC TRO affects the expropriation-related case it filed before a court in Iloilo.

“The TRO, it only concerns RTC Mandaluyong, it does not order the RTC Iloilo to continue with the expropriation case,” she said.

Last Nov. 18, Iloilo RTC Branch 35 Presiding Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo S. Amular ordered “to suspend further proceedings in this case in the interest of judicial fairness, respect to the Honorable Supreme Court and for practical considerations.”

MORE Power Chief Executive Officer and President Roel Z. Castro, on the other hand, said they are pleased about the SC order.

“This goes to show that the Supreme Court, the court of last resort and final arbiter of all legal questions brought before it, found that MORE Power has a clear and unmistakable right to be protected… (that) there is an urgent need for the writ to prevent irreparable injury to MORE Power, and; no other ordinary, speedy, and adequate remedy exists to prevent the infliction of irreparable injury other than the issuance of said TRO,” he said. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo





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