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EXPROPRIATION PROCEEDINGS

Iloilo power firm seeks transfer of asset seizure case to Manila

/ 05:01 AM June 18, 2019

ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — Panay Electric Co. (Peco) has asked the Supreme Court to transfer to Metro Manila the venue of the expropriation case against its assets filed by a company owned by businessman Enrique Razon Jr.

In a 15-page petition filed on June 13, Peco sought the transfer to ensure the “objectivity and neutrality of the court handling the case,” adding that it was necessary “for expediency and judicial consistency” due to a related case pending before the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court (RTC).

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Lawyer Hector Teodosio, counsel for the Razon-owned More Electric and Power Corp. (More Power), said More Power would oppose Peco’s petition.

“The properties involved [in the expropriation case] are in Iloilo and the hearings of the case should be held here,” Teodosio said.

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He said the pleadings of Peco, including the petition to transfer venue, would delay the proceedings.

Peco assets

More Power filed in the Iloilo City RTC Branch 37 a petition for the issuance of a writ of possession covering Peco’s distribution assets. It seeks to expropriate Peco’s assets, estimated to be valued at P481,842,450.

Peco, which has been operating in Iloilo City for 95 years, earlier filed in the Mandaluyong City RTC a petition for declaratory relief seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the expropriation and prevent the issuance of licenses and permits for the distribution company to operate.

It also sought to declare certain provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 11212 invalid or unconstitutional, including the provision allowing More Power to expropriate Peco’s assets.  RA 11212, signed by President Duterte on Feb. 14, granted a 25-year franchise to More Power as Iloilo City’s power distributor.

Peco’s franchise expired on Jan. 18 but the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) last month granted a provisional certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to Peco to continue distributing power in Iloilo City to prevent the disruption of power supply to consumers.

The ERC said the provisional CPCN was valid only within the two-year transition period when More Power was mandated to take over the power distribution.

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Ensuring neutrality

In its petition for a transfer of venue, Peco cited the intensive media coverage of the case, which, it claimed, could influence the court.

“Such pressure may affect the way that the judge[s] may handle and treat the case, especially as RTC Iloilo itself is a stakeholder in the expropriation case, being a consumer of electricity, wherein both petitioner Peco and respondent More [Power] have an interest,” according to the petition.

Peco said a transfer “will ensure neutrality in the conduct of the proceedings if it is heard by persons who are not emotionally attached to the issues and who stand to be directly affected by any court decision on the matter.”

As an alternative, it asked the high court to consolidate the expropriation case in the Iloilo RTC Branch 37 with the case in the Mandaluyong RTC.

In a hearing at the Iloilo RTC on Friday, Peco sought the suspension of proceedings, citing the petition it filed in the high court.

But Judge Victor Gelvezon denied the petition for suspension and set the next hearing on July 2. —Nestor P. Burgos Jr.

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TAGS: Enrique Razon Jr., expropriation case, Panay Electric Co., Peco
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