…and PECO blinked

WITH A FULLY irate and exasperated “I Am Iloilo City” mayor Geronimo staring PECO in the eye, plus the looming threat of subjecting the assets of PECO a.k.a. Panay Electric Co. to a public auction for delinquency in paying real property taxes amounting to P134,927,522.63, the once proud and mighty monolith blinked.

Two previous “I Am Iloilo City” mayors, for all their pompous demeanors, could not make PECO budget a centavo and cowered at their temerity to operate with extreme impunity despite the glaring fact that they have no business permit.

All it took was Mayor Geronimo in full “Digong” mode and PECO’s Head of Public Engagement and Government Affairs, Marcelo Ugarte Cacho, hurried down to city hall with a check amounting to P134, 927,522.63 and, with a somewhat forced smile, handed it to City Treasurer Jinny Hermano. It did stop the public auction of PECO assets, saving them from a huge embarrassment as MORE Power was all set to buy it all.

Excerpts from the Dec. 10, 2019 issue of Panay News:

Threat of auction forces PECO to finally pay P134-M tax dues

Panay Electric Co. (PECO) finally paid its real property tax (RPT) yesterday.

The city government threatened to auction P90-million worth of PECO assets on Dec. 12 if the power distributor failed to settle its RPT dues from 2006 to 2016.

PECO administrative manager Marcelo Cacho paid P134,927,522.63. Mayor Jerry Treñas and City Treasurer Jinny Hermani received the check.

PECO paid the first and second RPT assessments.

The first assessment reached P59 million, excluding the P38-million interest which is still being questioned in court. It covered poles from 2006 to 2016 which were supposed to be auctioned on Dec. 12.

It was in 2016 when the city government started charging RPT on PECO’s electric poles and lines. It based such move on the 2015 ruling of the Supreme Court which allowed local government units to impose real property taxes on electric posts and lines.

The city government made a 10-year period retroactive computation (2006-2016), including surcharges. PECO challenged this in court.

For the second assessment, PECO paid in full (including the fourth quarter of 2019) P75 million; this covered transformers, wires and one substation.

There you go. PECO blinked. To think they have operated with impunity without a proper business permit and unpaid real property taxes for the past two administrations.

I’m sure the natives of “I Am Iloilo City” felt a sense of relief that Mayor Geronimo did not have to challenge PECO’s Marcelo Ugarte Cacho to a few rounds of boxing or threatened him with a taste of his fist. That would have been quite a spectacle. Just imagine three rounds of no holds barred boxing at Sunburst Park on a Friday evening, winner take all.

Personally Moi would have preferred pistols at dawn at 30 paces the way disputes amongst gentlemen are settled in the classic tradition.

But PECO’s still not off the hook with Mayor Geronimo. There’s more (of course, pun intended). Excerpts still from the Dec. 10, 2019 issue of Panay News:

TREÑAS: COURTS CAN’T BE SISSIES

Mayor wants PECO-MORE legal cases resolved fast

Already “exasperated with some courts”, Mayor Jerry Treñas appealed for speedy resolution to the dragging legal battle between Panay Electric Co. (PECO) and MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power). “Indi pwede ang korte mag inagi (courts can’t be sissies). They will have to decide one way or the other,” he said.

The mayor warned of dire consequences if the uncertainty on the power distribution here lingers indefinitely.

“Kon ang korte mag inagi kag magpalagyo (If courts become feeble and cowardly) then you are opening the whole situation for people to take the law into their hands,” said Treñas, a lawyer.

MORE Power secured a 25-year power distribution franchise here in February. But PECO questioned the franchise’s constitutionality. The case is now with the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, MORE Power filed an expropriation case to take over PECO’s power distribution system. The Regional Trial Court Branch 35, however, suspended the proceedings last month.

 “Indi pwede nga indi sila ka-decision (Courts cannot not make decisions). Ang bilog nga syudad apektado dasun ga-inagi pa ang iban nga korte (The whole city is affected while some courts are taking their time). Indi pwede ‘na (This is not acceptable). Are they telling us to take the law in our hands?” said Treñas.

MORE Power scored a big legal win last week. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court En Banc stopped the implementation of the ruling of the Regional Trial Court in Mandaluyong City declaring two sections of MORE Power’s franchise law void and unconstitutional.

This foot-dragging of the courts has gotten the ire of Mayor Geronimo to the point that he threatened to take the law into his own hands. Well, we can’t blame him as all that delay is making a mockery of his “level up” vision of “I Am Iloilo City”.

Moi will not be surprised if Mayor Geronimo will lead an angry lynch mob of Ilonggos and take over PECO much like the takeover of the Bastille during the French Revolution. ([email protected]/PN)

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