THE DAY the news broke out, we immediately saw the hidden hand that disfigured Bombo Radyo’s survey pitting Panay Electric Co. (PECO) against MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power), asking respondents to prefer one over the other for the right to distribute electricity to Iloilo City.
The radio network’s Facebook page asked netizens to answer the question, “Sa away sang PECO kag MORE, ano ang imo dampigan?”
The final turnout showed PECO ahead with 67 percent against MORE’s 33 percent.
Yesterday, however, an item in the column Lapsus Calami in this paper clarified that the final result on the sixth day of the survey was a reversal of the figures on the first five days when MORE Power had dominated the race with 75 percent against PECO’s 25 percent.
Bombo Radyo eventually found out that the decisive surge of pro-PECO respondents on the sixth day had come from places outside of Iloilo City.
We do not blame Bombo Radyo for the unintended last-day “import” of respondent trolls. As to who had the motive to alter the trend, your guess is as good as ours.
Anyway, assuming without admitting that the survey responses were not manipulated, what has PECO to gain from it?
There’s nothing that we see in the horizon. What’s visible is the impending fade-out of PECO and the emergence of MORE Power in accordance with the law – Republic Act 11212 – signed by President Duterte on Feb. 14, 2019.
The law as crafted by Congress in 2018 granted MORE Power the new 25-year-franchise in view of the impending expiration of PECO’s franchise. Under the law, the outgoing grantee (PECO) – whose franchise expired on Jan. 19, 2019 – should have collaborated with the incoming one (MORE Power) in a transition period not exceeding two years.
That transition phase is specifically stated in Section 17: “Panay Electric Company, Inc. (PECO), shall in the interim be authorized to operate the existing distribution system…until the establishment or acquisition by the grantee of its own distribution system and its complete transition towards full operations as determined by the ERC, which period shall in no case exceed two (2) years from the grant of this legislative franchise.”
Within such period, the ERC may issue PECO a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) or provisional authority to prolong its services.
Embedded in Section 17 is MORE Power’s option to exercise the “right of eminent domain” or the power to expropriate “the distribution assets existing at the franchise area as provided in Section 10 of this Act.”
Sec. 10 authorizes MORE Power to sequester the distribution utility in in expropriation proceedings in a court of law in exchange for “just compensation”. MORE Power has offered to pay PECO P481,842,450 for that, which could be revised subject to concurrence of a representative from the ERC.
Instead of cooperating, however, PECO questioned the “constitutionality” of the aforesaid two provisions of RA 11212 before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Mandaluyong City.
Indeed the RTC ruled in favor of PECO but was restrained by the Supreme Court.
PECO’s actual purpose might have been to ride on Section 11 of the same law which deems MORE Power’s contract “cancelled or revoked in the event that the grantee fails to operate continuously for two years.”
The bad news for PECO, however, is that it has run out of excuses to further delay the implementation of RA 11212 on the second year ending on Feb. 14, 2021.
The good one is that both companies will benefit from its implementation. ([email protected]/PN)