ILOILO CITY — A Regional Trial Court (RTC) has granted the petition of the Razon-led MORE Electric and Power Corp. to take over the assets of Iloilo City’s long-time power distributor, Panay Electric Co. (PECO).

RTC Branch 37 Judge Marie Yvette D. Go granted the application in a 13-page order signed Aug. 14.

“This Court finds the Complaint for Expropriation sufficient in form and substance. In expropriation cases, the sufficiency in form and substance of the complaint (is) to be determined by mere examination of the allegations of the complaint. It finds too that the deposit made by the plaintiff is equivalent to the assessed value of the properties subject of the expropriation,” according to the order.

MORE Power, which was granted the franchise for power distribution in Iloilo under Republic Act (RA) 11212, filed the expropriation case on March 11 pursuant to its exercise of the power of eminent domain contained in the law.

In her resolution, Ms. Go said the power of eminent domain under certain conditions is a limitation on the right of ownership and “may be exercised even over private properties of cities and municipalities and even over lands registered with a Torrens title.”

On May 21, MORE Power deposited P481,842,450 with the Land Bank of the Philippines, equivalent to the assessed value of PECO’s properties subject to expropriation.

The Iloilo court ruling contradicts the July 1 decision of the Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 declaring RA 11212 as “void and unconstitutional for infringing on PECO’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law.”

The Mandaluyong case was filed by PECO.

Right after issuing the order, the Iloilo judge inhibited herself from the case.

The expropriation case was raffled again on Monday and it will now be heard by Judge Daniel Antonio Gerardo S. Amolar of RTC Branch 35.

MORE Power’s lawyer, Hector P. Teodosio, said MORE expects the enforcement of the writ of possession within this week.

“The writ is already enforceable by the sheriff because of the court order. We expect to enforce it within the week,” he said in a phone interview.

PECO, on the other hand, said the Iloilo court ruling is “unprecedented and patently invalid.”

“PECO is aghast, to say the least, at such brazenness. Such Order is a blatant violation of the Constitution. The expropriation provisions of RA 11212 have already been declared unconstitutional by the RTC in Mandaluyong. While the said judgment was appealed by MORE to the Supreme Court with a prayer for injunctive relief, the High Tribunal has not issued any temporary restraining order against the implementation of the injunction,” PECO said in a statement.

PECO further said Ms. Go and MORE Power are “committing not only contempt against the RTC Mandaluyong but also against the Supreme Court.”

“PECO assures the people of Iloilo that it will not tolerate such illegal and underhanded maneuverings. PECO will enforce and implement the final injunction of RTC of Mandaluyong,” the company said. — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo