THE Iloilo City Legal Office (CLO) maintained that Meter Reading Card System Ordinance remains valid unless the court declares otherwise.
City legal officer Lorna Laurea said in an interview on Aug. 11, 2017 that her office is ready to defend the ordinance in court after Panay Electric Company (PECO) questioned its validity and the Sangguniang Panlungsod jurisdiction to enact such measure.
“We have 15 days (from receipt of complaint) to file the answer to the charges; the ordinance is presumed valid unless declared otherwise by the court,” she said.
PECO filed a petition for declaratory relief to determine the validity of Regulation Ordinance No. 2017-095, which was unanimously passed by the Iloilo City Council last June 13, 2017.
The distribution utility firm argues that the SP has no jurisdiction to regulate PECO as it is under the regulatory power of the Energy Regulatory Commission as mandated by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) Law.
Even if the court affirms the jurisdiction of the SP, the ordinance is vaguely crafted, according to PECO’s legal counsel Aida Rose Villanueva.
The ordinance gave PECO six months to implement the system, lest they’d face penalties.
Councilor Joshua Alim, author of the ordinance, invoked anew the General Welfare clause of the Local Government Code of 1991 as jurisprudence which backs the SP’s enactment of the ordinance.
“Kon ERC ang may jurisdiction, ano kami ya sa city government? Mapabaya kami ya nga ginalapak kinamatarong sang mga pumoluyo? Ano ihambal ta? Wala ta mahimo kay ERC?” he asked.
Alim said the meter reading card system is for the protection of the consumers.
“The people have the right to so-called checks and balances, and that is the way maka participate ang tawo kon may card…Kon waay, ano basehan nila?” Alim added.
He countered the allegation that the ordinance is vague.
“Vague? I don’t think so. Long time ago ginagamit na nila ang card nga sistema,” he said.
Alim said he is willing to defend his ordinance in court, if the CLO will invite him as co-counsel.
As the enforcement of the ordinance continues despite the petition, Alim warned he will file a criminal case against PECO if it continues to refuse to abide by it.
The stand of PECO against the ordinance is summed in two umbrella arguments.
First, it argues that the City Council of Iloilo has no jurisdiction or power to enact the ordinance, which is tantamount to imposing regulation on a distribution utility like PECO.
“Distribution Utilities like PECO are under the regulatory supervision of Energy Regulatory Commission mandated under EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) Law,” Villanueva said.
“Based on that alone, the City Council has no power to pass ordinances regulating them,” she said.
If the court affirms the jurisdiction of the City Council, Villanueva said the petition also contests the content of the ordinance.
“If assuming the SP has the power (to enact the said ordinance), the content or framing of the ordinance is invalid because it is vague. It is not exactly clear what are the acts prohibited,” she said.
If the court will affirm the validity of the ordinance, she said PECO will most likely elevate it to higher courts “because the grounds it stated in the said petition are very basic, and we have jurisprudence which backs PECO’s claims”.