"It appears to be losing its battle even in the legal front."
Panay Electric Co. has already ceased to be Iloilo’s power distribution utility after Congress refused to extend its franchise and instead grant a congressional franchise to More Power. However, PECO has refused to accept defeat and has embarked on a legal battle to regain the right to distribute power in Iloilo.
Unfortunately for PECO, it appears to be losing its battle even in the legal front. This was after the Department of Justice dismissed the charges it had filed against the group behind the “No to PECO Franchise Renewal.”
In a decision recently penned by DOJ Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento, charges of conspiracy and falsification of public documents filed by PECO against its critics was “dismissed for utter lack of merit” clearing the respondents composed of lawyers Joshua Alim and Plaridel Nava II along with Dr. Marigold Gonzales and Jane Javellana.
The dismissal is contained in a joint resolution signed by Malcontento along with DOJ State Prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Pacamarra and Senior State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon.
In dismissing the case, the three state prosecutors stated in a document obtained by Iloilo News that they found all the respondents not liable to the charges noting “it is clear as the day that the respondents did not falsify any document.”
The DOJ officials also noted that lawyers Alim and Nava, who were Iloilo City councilors during that time, did not violate any provision of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) accused them of by PECO.
Recall that PECO charged the respondents over the consumer’ manifesto which circulated against PECO, the same manifesto which was submitted in Congress while it was bidding for the renewal of its franchise.
PECO claimed the manifesto, which was signed by 27,000 persons, was falsified and was used in favor of another applicant referring to More Power.
The former power distributor also charged lawyers Alim and Nava for violating RA3019 “because they were both public officers, being incumbent members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod at that time.”
The duo, in their counter affidavit, said that their action against PECO was in the behest of their role as public officials to act on complaints by the consumers on issues of overbilling, billing without reading, inefficient services, including abuses and arrogance of its employees, among others.
For their part, Gonzales and Javellana were charged for allegedly conspiring with the two lawyers and made it appear that the 27,000 signatories to the petition were legitimate, which PECO claimed as “fictitious and untruthful.”
PECO used to operate the city’s distribution system for more than 90 years, but its franchise expired last year. But while its application for a new franchise was denied by Congress, it granted MORE Power the franchise to operate the distribution system to ensure continuous and uninterrupted supply of electricity in the city.
The franchise mandated MORE Power to modify, improve, upgrade, and change the distribution facilities, systems, or the management and maintenance of the distribution facility and to continuously improve its facilities and employ the latest technology and innovations that promote efficiency and is beneficial to consumers.
Elated with the DoJ’s decision, Alim, who is now a full-time advocate after taking a breather from politics, said that “justice has prevailed.”
For his part, Nava said the victory was not only theirs but a victory as well for “all consumers who fought hard against the oppressive PECO.”
Javellana, who is now the Presidential Consultant for Western Visayas, said that PECO’s charges were aimed not only to humiliate but to harass them.
PECO has already been deposed as Iloilo’s power distributor and we could only expect it to exhaust all legal means to regain it. The DoJ decision might be only one victory for those who are opposing PECO. There is still the petition filed by PECO pending before the Supreme Court. But for PECO’s oppositors, a victory still spells victory and could never be sweeter as they see the total end nearing for the former power distribution utility.