A congressman on Tuesday criticized as uncalled for the attempt of the controversial utility firm Panay Electric Co. to blackmail Congress into granting it a franchise with a threat to plunge Iloilo City into a citywide power blackout.
Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting said PECO legal counsel Inocencio Ferrer was wrong in threatening to cut off the operation of PECO and cause citywide blackout in Iloilo City as it is not the fault of Congress to grant the franchise for distribution utility in Iloilo City to another company because Congress has to choose the company that can best serve the consumers.
“Congress has decided to give the franchise to another company. A franchise is a privilege granted by Congress. We have testimonies of how PECO has been inefficient through the years,” Tambunting said.
He noted that Congress received all the complaints filed over the years by Iloilo City consumers against PECO’s penchant for overbilling its customers, the dilapidated transmission facilities like old leaning electricity poles that endanger residents, low quality of public service and the consistently high electricity rates already proven by industry experts as the highest not only in the Philippines but in the entire world.
PECO employees also complained to Congress of the company’s failure to pay overtime salary while an employee, Guadioso Arnejo Sumandi, complained to President Rodrigo Duterte in his 8888 Citizens complaint number that PECO employees had to pay for repair materials because the company had not been buying repair materials for the past two years.
The Paranaque solon also criticized the failure of PECO to send anyone to the meeting of the Technical Working Group(TWG) created by the Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe to take up the transition plan for the takeover of PECO’s operation by the new utility firm More Electric and Power Corp which was granted the legislative franchise by the Senate and the House.
PECO should also know better than to threaten Congress and the national government to plunge Iloilo City into a power blackout, Tambunting said.
“PECO knows what Congress can do if they refuse to comply,” Tambunting said, as he stressed Congress could order the police and other law enforcement agencies to arrest PECO officials to compel them to participate in the preparation of the transition planning process of the Senate TWG.
“The power of Congress to exercise its functions cannot be hostaged by their refusal to participate in the TWG. Government also has the power of eminent domain. Article III, Sec. 9 of the Constitution says ‘(P)rivate property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation. Government can choose to exercise its power of eminent domain if they refuse to comply,” Tambunting added.