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Republic of the Philippines

ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION


San Miguel Ave., Pasig City

ANGELINA NG,
Complainant,

-versus- ERC CASE NO. 2004-387CC

MANILA ELECTRIC COMPANY


(MERALCO),
Respondent.
x--------------------------------------------x
DECISION

Before this Commission for resolution is a verified Complaint filed by .


complainant Angelina Ng on 4 November 2004 against Respondent Manila
Electric Company (MERALCO for brevity) for alleged illegal use of
electricity and unlawful disconnection of complainant's electric service.

The instant Complaint sprang from the following factual antecedents:

Complainant is a resident of an apartment located at No. 24 Road 5,


Pildera 2, NAIA, Pasay City.1 She is the actual user of electricity under
Service Identification Number (SIN) 443925701 and whose service is
registered to Mely Baguinat, the previous owner of the apartment.2 In the
Complaint, complainant alleges that on 14 October 2004, she was talking
to a neighbor, Ms. Gema Dumam-ag in front of her apartment when
respondent's service inspectors arrived and falsely accused her of an
alleged illegal electric connection.3 They forced the complainant to affix her
signature on the Metering Facilities Inspection Report (MFIR) No. 51632 as
well as a blank Demand Letter/Notice of Disconnection on the same date.4
When the respondent's inspectors returned two hours later, they gave the
complainant a copy of the Demand Letter/Notice of Disconnection. It was
already filled up with the amount of TWO HUNDRED THREE THOUSAND
EIGHTY-FIVE PESOS & 95/100 (Php203,085.95), representing the
unregistered electric consumption covering the period from 3 November
1999 to 14 October 2004.5

1 Complainant's Position Paper dated June 23, 2006 at p. 1.


2 Respondent's Position Paper dated July 10, 2006 at p. 2.
3 Supra note 1 at p. 2.
4 Ibid.
S Demand Letter/Notice of Disconnection dated October 14,2004.
ERC Case No. 2004-387CC
Decision /7 October 2014
Page 2 of 8

On 29 October 2004, the respondent's personnel returned to the


subject premises and disconnected the electric service of the complainant
and removed her electric meter without the presence of any officer of the
law or agent or representative of the Energy Regulatory Commission
(ERC).6 The respondent's personnel, headed by Rener Musngi, tried to
force the complainant to sign another MFIR (No. 61989) which documented
the disconnection made, but she refused to sign the same.7 Complainant
requested the respondent to reconnect her electric service but to no avail.

Hence, this complaint.8

Respondent, on the other hand, claims that on 14 October 2004, its


service inspectors requested permission from the complainant to conduct
an inspection of the subject premises. This was granted by the complainant
and inspection commenced. The inspection was conducted in the presence
of the complainant and police officer P01 Noli Garcia.9 During the
inspection, the service inspectors found an "outside connection" going to
loads of the complainant and without respondent's consent or authority,
which is in violation of Republic Act No. 7832 or the "Anti-Electricity and
Electric Transmission Lines/Materials Pilferage Act of 1994.,,10 As a result,
the electric meter failed to register the actual, correct, and full electric
consumption of the complainant. In view of the findings, respondent's
service inspectors prepared an MFIR and served it to the complaint.
Thereafter, a Demand Letter/Notice of Disconnection was served to the
complainant informing her of their findings and demanded from her to pay
the differential bill in the amount aforecited based on listed connected
loads.

Several pre-hearing conferences were conducted by the Commission


to explore the possibility of an amicable settlement between the parties, but
failed. Thus, the parties agreed to submit this case for hearing in
accordance with the Summary Procedure set forth under Section 2, Rule
17 of the ERC Rules of Practice and Procedure.

Taking the parties' respective memorandums, evidence, and


contentions altogether, the issues which this Commission is called to
resolve can be refined as follows:

I.

WHETHER OR NOT COMPLAINANT VIOLATED REPUBLIC


ACT NO. 7832 OR THE "ANTI-ELECTRICITY AND ELECTRIC

6 Supra note 1 at p. 2.
7 Ibid. at p. 3.
8 Complaint dated October 14, 2004.
9 Supra note 2 at p. 3.
10 Ibid.

2
ERC Case No. 2004-387CC
Decision /7 October 2014
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TRANSMISSION LINES/MATERIALS PILFERAGE ACT OF


1994".

II.

WHETHER OR NOT COMPLAINANT IS LIABLE TO PAY THE


DIFFERENTIAL BILLING IMPOSED AGAINST HER IN THE
AMOUNT OF TWO HUNDRED THREE THOUSAND EIGHTY-
FIVE PESOS & 95/100 (Php203,085.95).

Complainant violated
R.A. No. 7832

Complainant avers that she did not violate R.A. No. 7832.
Respondent's service inspectors falsely accused her of illegal connection of
electricity but could not present any sufficient evidence showing the illegal
disconnection. She was made to affix her signature on the MFIR and on a
blank Demand Letter/Notice of Disconnection. Further, she was subjected
to harassment and coercion when the respondent's personnel returned to
the subject premises on 29 October 2004 to disconnect her electric service.
Lastly, she insists that she is innocent of any illegal electrical connection as
it was Anastacio G. Baguinat who confessed to using the same.

Respondent, on the other hand, claims that the inspection was


conducted in compliance with due process and that it has a contractual
right to disconnect complainant's electric service when the latter failed to
pay the differential billing.

On this point, we find for the respondent MERALCO.

Respondent was able to sufficiently prove that complainant had


utilized an illegal electrical connection and that it conducted the inspection
in accordance with procedure set by law. It presented photographs of the
illegal connection of electricity, 11computation of S.1. bills,12 and an affidavit
executed by Rogelio C. Bacay, the squad leader of the team who
conducted the inspection.13 The photographs clearly showed the existence
of an illegal electricity connection in the residence of the complainant. The
defense raised by the complainant that a certain Anastacio G. Baguinat
confessed to making the illegal electricity connection and he alone utilized

11 Photographs dated October 14, 2004, attached as Annexes "1" to "g" to the Respondent's Reply Paper
dated October 2,2006.
12 Computation of S.1. Bills, attached as Annexes "A" to "A-S" to the Respondent's Position Paper dated
July 10, 2006.
13 Affidavit of Rogelio C. Bacay, attached as Annex "3" to the Respondent's Position Paper dated July 10,
2006.
3

J
ERC Case No. 2004-387CC
Decision /7 October 2014
Page 4 of 8

the same cannot be given credence by the Honorable Commission.14 Since


he is confessing to a violation of a special law (R.A. 7832), his affidavit
cannot be taken at face value without any other evidence corroborating his
testimony. He was never presented to testify during the hearings. Neither
did the complainant present any other proof corroborating his stated facts
in his affidavit. For the Honorable Commission to accept his statement as
irrefutable proof of his guilt without any other evidence is a denial of his due
process, notwithstanding the affidavit he presented. To add, complainant
has control over her premises and such illegal connection cannot pass her
eyes without noticing it. For sure, she knows the repercussions of such act
and could have promptly disconnected it had she not benefitted therefrom.

Meanwhile, the affidavit of Rogelio Bacay attested to the proper


conduct of the inspection and was neither convincingly refuted nor
contradicted by any other evidence presented by the complainant.
Moreover, the inspection of the complainant's electric service was done in
compliance with the Terms and Conditions of Service and in accordance
with the law. Section 4 of RA 7832 states:

SEC. 4. Prima Facie Evidence. -

(a) The presence of any of the following circumstances shall


constitute prima facie evidence of illegal use of electricity,
as defined in this Act, by the person benefited thereby, and
shall be the basis for: (1) the immediate disconnection by the
electric utility to such person after due notice,

xxx

(iii) The existence of any wiring connection which affects the


normal operation or registration of the electric meter;

xxx

(viii) x x x Provided, however, That the discovery of any of the


foregoing circumstances, in order to constitute prima facie
evidence, must be personally witnessed and attested to by
an officer of the law or a duly authorized representative of
the Energy Regulatory Board (ERB).

Under the law, there is prima facie evidence if the discovery of an


unauthorized wiring connection is witnessed by an officer of the law or a
duly authorized representative of the ERC (ERB's successor). With such
prima facie evidence on record, only then can MERALCO immediately
disconnect the electrical service of the consumer after due notice. This rule

14 Affidavit of Anastacio Baguinat dated May 25, 2006, attached as Annex "E" to the Complainant's
Position Paper dated June 23, 2006.
4
ERC Case No. 2004-387CC
Decision /7 October 2014
Page 5 of 8

was reiterated in the case of MERALCO v. Spouses Chua and Paqueo.15


Section 1, Rule III of the Rules and Regulations Implementing RA 7832
(IRR) defines an officer of the law as one "who, by direct supervision of law
or by election or by appointment by competent authority, is charged with
the maintenance of public order and the protection and security of life and
property, such as barangay captain, barangay chairman, barangay
councilman, barangay leader, officer or member of Barangay Community
Brigades, barangay policeman, PNP policeman, municipal councilor,
municipal mayor and provincial fiscal." In the instant case, the inspection
was conducted in the presence of the complainant and an officer of the law,
P01 Noli Garcia, as evidenced by their signatures on the MFIR.16 The
presence of P01 Garcia at the 14 October 2004 inspection was not
categorically denied by the complainant. It is clear that respondent
complied with the procedures mandated by the law in the conduct of the
inspection and that it afforded complainant ample time to pay the
differential bill.

Meanwhile, the contention of the complainant that no officer of the


law or representative from ERC was present at the time of disconnection is
of no moment. What the law requires is that an officer of the law or
representative from the ERC is present during the time of inspection to
make a determination of prima facie evidence of a finding of illegal use of
electricity and not at the time of the disconnection. Indeed, the
disconnection of complainant's electric service is in accordance with the
"Terms and Conditions of Service" entered into between MERALCO and its
customers as embodied in PSC Case No. 72055, BPW Case No. 73-115
and BOE Case No. 85-121. The pertinent provision states:

DISCONTINUANCE OF SERVICE:

The Company reserves the right to discontinue service in case


the Customer is in arrears in the payment of bills or for failure to
pay the adjusted bills in those cases where the meter stopped or
failed to register the correct amount of energy consumed, or for
failure to comply with any of these terms and conditions or in
case of or to prevent fraud upon the Company. Before
disconnection is made in case of or to prevent fraud, the
Company may adjust the bill of said customer accordingly and if
the adjusted bill is not paid, the Company may disconnect the
same. In case of disconnection, the provisions of Revised Order
No. 1 of the former Public Service Commission (now the Board
of Energy) shall be observed. xxx

15Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) v. Spouses Chua and Paqueo, G.R. No. 160422, July 5, 2010.
16Metering Facilities Inspection Report No. 51632, attached as Annex "B" to the Complainant's Position
Paper dated June 23, 2006.
5
ERC Case No. 2004-387CC
Decision /7 October 2014
Page 6 of 8

Obviously, the disconnection of complainant's electric service is


warranted to prevent fraud upon the Company. Complainant was even
given ample time to settle and pay her obligation. It may be noted that while
the Demand Letter/Notice of Disconnection was sent to her on the same
day, 14 October 2004 reminding her that she had ten (10) days to settle the
differential bill, it was only on 29 October 2004 that respondent
disconnected complainant's electric service. Thus, it cannot be denied that
respondent complied with the proper procedure under the law. To deny the
respondent the right to discontinue its electric service to a customer for
nonpayment of bills would make it difficult for a public utility to operate as it
would always be at the mercy of its customers.

Complainant is liable to pay


a differential bill

The evidence presented sustains the conclusion that complainant


Angelina Ng is liable to pay a differential bill for the unregistered electrical
consumption resulting from an illegal electrical connection through 'outside
connection'. Respondent should be given what it rightfully deserves 17 as
we do not give premium to an illegal act committed. However, we disagree
with MERALCO's assessed differential bill in the amount of Php203,085.95
for the period 3 November 1999 to 14 October 2004 based on listed
connected loads. Complainant submitted in evidence a Deed of Sale 18
executed on 31 July 2001 for the acquisition of the subject apartment. This
fact was neither refuted by the respondent nor it adduced evidence proving
complainant's stay from 3 November 1999. Thus, for purposes of
computing the differential bill for the unregistered consumption, the affected
period should commence from the date when complainant acquired
possessory right over the said property or from 31 July 2001 to the date of
apprehension or on 14 October 2004. Likewise, respondent erred in using
the "additional" or estimated connected load19 method because it failed to
adduce evidence on the standard daily energy usage on each connected
load which is an indispensable factor in determining the overall load profile
of a load in use by the complainant.

17 Sps. Quisumbing vs. MERALCO, G.R. No. 142943, April 3, 2002.


18 Attached to complainant's 23 June 2006 Position Paper and marked as Exhibit "A".
19 Paragraph 2 (b) of Section 6 of R.A. No. 7832, provides:

Section 6. Disconnection of Electric Service.

xxx

For purposes of this Act, "differential billing" shall refer to the amount to be charged to the
person concerned for the unbilled electricity illegally consumed by him as determined through
the use of methodologies which utilize, among others, as basis for determining the amount of
monthly electric consumption in kilowatt-hours to be billed, either: (a) the highest recorded
monthly consumption within the five-year billing period preceding the time of the discovery, (b)
the estimated monthly consumption as per the report of load inspection conducted
during the time of discovery xxx
6
ERC Case No. 2004-387CC
Decision / 7 October 2014
Page 7 of 8

Considering the attending facts and case records, the most equitable
method in determining the amount of differential bill for the unregistered
consumption is through the use of the recorded highest monthly
consumption within the five-year billing period preceding the time of the
discovery20 and at the current rate of electricity at the time of apprehension.

Current rate means the average rate of electricity per kilowatthour as


reflected in the current bill. Current bill means the latest monthly bill served
by the utility which does not include any period before the time of
apprehension.

Thus, the differential bill for the unregistered consumption should be


computed as follows:

Differential Bill = (312 x PhP7.47 x 37) - PhP37,391.85

= PhP48,841.83
Where:

312kwhs recorded highest monthly


consumption within the affected
periods21

PhP7.47/kwh MERALCO's effective


rate/average rate of electricity for
Nov. 200422

37 months23 affected period (31 July 2001to14


Oct. 2004)

(PhP37,391.85) total amount paid for the affected


period

In addition to the unregistered consumption, MERALCO is entitled to


collect surcharges from complainant equivalent to twenty-five percent
(25%) of her current bill pursuant to Section 8 (a) of R.A. 7832.

20 Ibid.

21 Per billing history attached to respondent's 10 July 2006 Position Paper and marked as Annex "A" to
"A-S". The latest bill date per said annex is up to 2 Sept. 2004, Oct. 2004 bill is not included. That's the
reason why the affected period is limited only to 37 months instead of the correct 38 months.
22 As approved by the ERC.
23 Supra note 21.

7
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ERC Case No. 2004-387CC


Decision /7 October 2014
Page 8 of 8

THEREFORE, premises considered, complainant ANGELINA NG is


hereby found to have illegally consumed electricity through an illegal
electrical connection. Accordingly, she is liable to pay the computed
unregistered electric consumption for the period 31 July 2001t014 October
2004 in the amount of FORTY EIGHT THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED
FORTY ONE and 83/100 (PhP48,841.83) plus twenty five percent (25%)
surcharge of her current bill.

SO ORDERED.

7 October 2014.

h A~(~
NAIDA G. CRUZ-DUCUT
Chairperson rJ

0, .(;c~ (V.._
GL~VICTORIA CYVAP-TARUC
Commissioner

JOSEFINA PATRICIA GPALE-ASIRIT


Commissio er

Copy Furnished:

1. Manila Electric Company, Inc.


(MERALCO)
Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City

2. Angelina Ng
No. 24 Rd. 5 Pildera II
NAIA, Pasay City