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Court case vs JVA dismissed

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

The Regional Trial Court Branch 42 of Bacolod has ordered the dismissal of a civil case filed by several petitioners against officials of the Central Negros Electric Cooperative and Negros Electric Power Corporation, in relation to the Joint Venture Agreement between CENECO and NEPC.

The petitioners, Negros Consumers Watch (NCW) and Convenors of Anti CENECO JVA Coalition (ACJC), represented by Pepito Pico and Rommel Pido, respectively, sought the nullity of JVA and the issuance of Preliminary Injunction and/ or Temporary Restraining Order from the court.

On August 22 this year, petitioners alleged that the court has jurisdiction on the petition for declaratory relief, with prayer for the issuance of TRO and permanent injunction.

RTC Branch 42 Judge Maria Lina Gonzaga, in her seven- page order dated September 1, said a perusal of JVA in question does not show any ambiguity, which requires judicial construction.

If the terms and condition of the agreement are being questioned for being disadvantageous to the consumers and the CENECO members, declaratory relief is not a remedy, Gonzaga said, stressing that the issues are best raised before the National Electrification Administration (NEA), which is equipped with the proper legal and technical team to discuss the loopholes.

While petitioners’ claim that NEA has no jurisdiction over declaratory relief or issuance of TRO or permanent injunction (PI) is true, the action of declaratory relief was prematurely filed, the judge said.

Judge Gonzaga further said that the issuance of TRO or PI had also become moot due to supervening events, such as NEA’s intervention relative to the questioned plebiscites, with results already out and counted, hence, “there is nothing left for the Court to restrain.”

As to the issue on exhaustion of administrative remedies, the judge said “prior to resort to the Courts, parties must first seek recourse from the administrative agency, which has the technical expertise over the issues.”

Based on the foregoing, the Court is indeed bereft of jurisdiction. This case is, as it should be, dismissed without prejudice, the judge stressed.*

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