A former top executive of an electric cooperative appears headed to ultimate victory in his lonely, private legal battles over the past five years or so even as Mindoreños are fighting their own war against persistent brownouts.
The Supreme Court, no less, upheld Patrocinio Panagsagan’s right to sit as general manager of the Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (Ormeco) and presumably settlement of damages and back wages that have piled up since his ouster in 2017.
The High Tribunal’s Second Division, in a minute resolution dated Sept. 28, 2022, upheld an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeals and denied for lack of merit a motion by the Ormeco board contesting the ruling by the appellate court.
The SC cited petitioner Ormeco’s “failure to show any substantial, special or important reason to warrant the exercise of this Court’s discretionary power to review the challenged decision and resolution.”
It appears that Panagsagan, an engineer by profession, has turned the tables against his erstwhile employer.
This is poetic justice because Ormeco had been giving Panagsagan a hard time fighting for his personal reputation and constitutional rights against a relentless assault by the powers-that-be in his province.
While sitting as Ormeco general manager, Panagsagan’s enemies threw everything at him, including the proverbial kitchen sink.
They sued him for alleged illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and filed a drug case against him, among other baseless accusations. Panagsagan was eventually cleared of all charges.
But the one thing that remained as a pain in the neck was his ouster as general manager for no good reason. So he decided to fight it out all the way to the SC at great financial and psychological costs.
In a manner of speaking, he was doing a giant slayer act.
He was up against a humongous triumvirate of brothers, two of whom occupied power – political and judicial positions in Or. Mindoro – while the third was Panagsagan’s archrival for the Ormeco post.
After the courts invariably junked the criminal charges against Panagsagan, the National Electrification Administration stepped into the picture, and upon its apparent behest, the Ormeco board passed a resolution ousting Panagsagan as general manager.
Panagsagan was subsequently unseated in October 2018.
Somehow, he showed that he was no pushover. Thus, he filed a case questioning the validity of the board resolutions while at the same time asking for settlement of damages, including back wages.
He had to face a wall of resistance at every turn, apparently courtesy of the brothers who seemed to have the whole province all sewed up.
Prior to his ouster, Panagsagan filed a complaint against the Ormeco Board and NEA.
No trial court in Calapan City was willing to accommodate his complaint.
Subsequently, he filed the case in Pinamalayan Regional Trial Court, and the case was raffled to the sala of Judge Harry Jaminola of the Regional Trial Court Branch 41 in Pinamalayan, Or. Mindoro.
This is getting curiouser and curiouser, so to speak.
Apparently aware that Jaminola is a level-headed magistrate, the respondents in Panagsagan’s suit, notably the Ormeco board, filed an omnibus motion seeking to inhibit Jaminola on the ground that the case involved an intra-corporate matter and therefore, outside of his jurisdiction.
The respondents argued that being an intra-corporate controversy, the case was “cognizable” only by the RTC Branch 39 in Calapan as a Special Commercial Court.
But then again, no court in Calapan wanted to entertain Panagsagan’s case. Hence, there’s nowhere to go for the hapless litigant.
Meanwhile, Jaminola upheld his arguments, and issued on Oct. 30, 2017 a TRO and later, a Preliminary Injunction and Status Quo Ante Order enjoining the Ormeco board to refrain from implementing its resolution ousting Panagsagan, meaning Panagsagan had to be reinstated as general manager.
But such victory for him did not come cheap. He had to post a bond of P500,000 to defray possible damages.
Jaminola also junked the respondents’ motion, saying the case did not involve intra-corporate affairs.
On March 14, 2018, Jaminola issued an order that “all foregoing incidents” were submitted for resolution.
Then a bizarre twist of fate happened. Before the scheduled pre-trial, Jaminola issued a resolution inhibiting himself from further hearing the cases, leaving the unfinished business to RTC Branch 42 manned by Judge Edwin Y. Dimayacyac.
On Oct. 1, 2018, Dimayacyac handed down a decision summarily countermanding Jaminola’s order and referring the case to the RTC Branch 39 in Calapan, the so-called Special Commercial Court, for “proper disposition.”
Panagsagan tried to contest Dimayacyac’s ruling and filed a motion for reconsideration. Dimayacyac needed to face an administrative case before the Office of Court Administrator for his irregular ruling.
Panagsagan then elevated the issue before the Court of Appeals, and won.
With the CA decision, Panagsagan moved for the restoration of the earlier Preliminary Injunction and Status Quo Ante Order, but Judge Josephine Caranzo would hear none of it, saying there already existed an MR from Ormeco. The CA also rejected Ormeco’s MR.
With the denial of Ormeco’s MR, Panagsagan went back to RTC Branch 39.
But Caranzo again told him “No,” citing another Petition for Review filed by the Ormeco before the Supreme Court.
Recently, Panagsagan received a copy of the High Tribunal’s minute resolution denying Ormeco’s MR.
In effect, Panagsagan has won his legal battles, but his foes still refuse to restore him as general manager of Ormeco.
Bayan, kayo ngayon ang humatol.