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Meralco seeks dismissal of estafa case filed by Nasecore

July 8, 2008 9:03pm

Tags: Meralco
MANILA, Philippines - The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) on Tuesday sought for the dismissal of the P889-million syndicated estafa complaint filed against them by the consumer advocacy group National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reform (Nasecore).

Meralco lawyer Manuel Lazaro also questioned the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the case, saying it is the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) which has the first say in cases involving power rates.

He also cited Nasecore’s failure to post the required docket fees as ground for the dismissal of the case. He said this runs counter to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez’s directive for all prosecutors to assess and collect legal fees for cases filed before their respective offices.

“We tried to go through the records and we cannot find proof that legal fees were paid (by Nasecore)," Lazaro said during the hearing presided over by Justice State Prosecutor Jaime Umpa.

Lazaro said Nasecore should have paid a total of P8.84 million as docket fees, or roughly 10 percent of the amount sought. He said this was based on the scheduled legal fees for estafa.

Meralco lawyers declined to expound on their arguments so as not to preempt the filing of their counter-affidavits.

“We might be raising our legal defenses in public. All we are saying in a nutshell, there is no valid complaint against the respondents," Lazaro said.

On the other hand, Nasecore, through its counsel Greg Joseph Tiongco, withheld comment to Meralco’s allegations, saying the counsel for the respondent officials of Meralco should officially raise the issues in their counter-affidavits.

“Until they file their counter-affidavits and raise the said issues, we cannot comment on these allegations. The instruction of the DOJ panel hearing the case is for the respondents to submit their counter-affidavits, then we will reply to their counter-affidavits," Tiongco said.

The DOJ panel has given the respondents until July 25 to submit their counter-affidavits.
Tiongco conceded that under the general rule, cases can be dismissed on the ground of non-payment of docket fees. However, the payment may be suspended if the case involves public interest.

The estafa complaint was initiated by Nasecore president Petronilo Ilagan and several others alleging that the power firm illegally converted as income the interest earned by the meter and bill deposits of its subscribers.

Nasecore insisted that the conversion is illegal as the said money was in the nature of a fund that should have been held in trust by Meralco for its consumers because it must be paid back to them.

Another hearing was scheduled on July 24 as Meralco’s counsels were given more time to file their counter-affidavit. - GMANews.TV

Tags: Meralco