SC holiday present to public: TRO vs power rate hike

December 25, 2013

Womens' group held a lights out protest against power rate hike last Saturday in Tatalon, Quezon City.  The group calls for the scrapping of Epira Law. (macky Macaspac)

Womens’ group Gabriela held a lights out protest last Dec. 20 against power rate hike in Tatalon, Quezon City. The group called for the scrapping of Epira Law. (Macky Macaspac)

Progressive organizations who spearheaded the petition before the Supreme Court to stop power rate increases hailed the high court for issuing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Php4.15 per kilowat hour increase of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

It was a welcome respite and a Christmas gift to the public already burdened with high prices of basic commodities, the Makabayan bloc of progressive party-list groups said.

The Supreme Court, acting on two petitions filed by Makabayan bloc and consumers groups, stopped for 60 days the power rates increase starting this month. The high court also gave Meralco and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) up to January 8 to file their comments and the court set an oral argument on January 21.

“Effective immediately and for a period of 60 days, respondent ERC, Meralco are hereby enjoined from implementing its December 9, 2013 order and acting further on the letter request of Meralco dated Dec. 5, 2013, and respondent Meralco, its agents, representatives, are hereby enjoined from increasing the rates it charges to its customers based on the matters it raised in its December 5, 2013 letter,” said the high court, in a statement read by its spokesperson lawyer Theodore Te.

Instead of turning on his lights, a store owner used candles to light-up his store  in support of Gabriela's Lights Out campaign against power rate hikes last Saturday. (Macky Macaspac)

Instead of turning on his lights, a store owner used candles to light-up his store in support of Gabriela’s Lights Out campaign against power rate hikes last Saturday. (Macky Macaspac)

Progressive groups said the decision to temporarily restrain the imposition of “incredibly high power rates” is a welcome relief for the people already suffering from very low wages in the face of very high prices of basic commodities.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, one of the petitioners,  added that the TRO has a stronger legal basis than the announcements of the Department of Energy (DOE) or the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to suspend collection.

“But this is just a TRO and we need to prepare and fight for a permanent injunction of this unjust power rate hike,” he said.

Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap added that the decision was a result of the public’s strong opposition to Meralco’s unjust power rate adjustment.

Anakpawis will file a separate petition together with labor, peasant and urban poor groups on Dec. 27.

Hicap said they will file a petition for certiorari with application for preliminary and permanent injunction to enjoin the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and Meralco from implementing the power rate hike.

“We will file our petition representing the sentiments of millions of Meralco customers. We will also prepare for the oral argument set on January 21 to further raise our issues against Meralco’s high power rates and profiteering at the expense of electric power consumers,” Hicap said.

The group also challenged the Supreme Court to declare the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) as unconstitutional.

“Epira failed its promise of lower power rates and stable power supply. Instead, it authorized private power firms to transform the power sector into a profitable business and burdened consumers with high power rates,” added Hicap.