The Supreme Court said Wednesday it affirmed the constitutionality of the legislative franchise granted to MORE Electric and Power Corp. as a distribution utility in Iloilo City.
The high tribunal also affirmed the pertinent provisions of the franchise authorizing MORE Power to exercise the power of eminent domain and expropriate existing distribution facilities of rival Panay Electric Company.
Voting 8-6, the SC reversed and set aside the decision rendered by the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court and, instead, declared as constitutional Section 10 and 17 of Republic Act No. 11212, or MORE Power’s legislative franchise.
The provisions empower MORE Power to exercise the power of eminent domain and to expropriate any asset, including existing distribution assets in Iloilo city.
SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said the court reached the decision during the regular en banc session on Sept. 15.
“In granting the petition, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Regional Trial Court of Mandaluyong City Branch 209 . . . and declared Sections 10 and 17 of R.A. 11212 constitutional,” a highly-placed source said.
The Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 in July 2019 declared certain provisions of the franchise of MORE Power as “void and unconstitutional for infringing on PECO’s rights to due process and equal protection of the law.”
MORE Power elevated the case to the Supreme Court which issued a temporary restraining order in December 2019 stopping the Mandaluyong RTC from implementing its decision.
MORE Power, led by businessman Enrique Razon, and PECO have been engaged in a legal tussle over the control of the Iloilo City power distribution system.
MORE Power started the process of taking over PECO’s electricity distribution facilities after securing a legislative franchise from Congress in 2019 following the expiration of PECO’s franchise on Jan. 19, 2019.
MORE Power filed an expropriation case against PECO’s distribution assets after securing the franchise and took over power distribution in Iloilo.
The company rehabilitated distribution transformers, replaced broken electric poles and fixed hotspot connectors as part of the upgrading program for the city’s aging electricity distribution system.
MORE Power said it would spend P1.8 billion to rehabilitate and upgrade the distribution system in the next three years to improve electricity supply, reduce system losses, lower the monthly bill paid by consumers and improve system capacity to handle bigger demand.