Waterfront wins case against Veco

Posted on March 14, 2012

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THE Cebu City Prosecutors’ Office dismissed for lack of probable cause the criminal complaint filed by the Visayan Electric Co. (Veco) against the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino for pilferage of electricity worth millions of pesos.

In his 10-page resolution, Asst. City Prosecutor Rogelio del Prado Jr. said Veco failed to present any evidence that would prove the accusations against the respondents.

“There is no evidence to support that the respondents knowingly permitted such alleged pilferage. Complainant failed to adduce evidence of involvement on the part of the respondents in the execution of the act,” Del Prado said in his resolution.

The issue stemmed from the complaint filed by Veco last November 2011.

Veco alleged that Waterfront deliberately tampered wires leading to the hotel’s electric billing meter.

Veco alleged that the tampering resulted in the illegal reduction by 66 percent of the hotel’s electric bills.

Veco sought the payment of P168,699,560.86 for the electricity, representing differential billing for the pilfered electricity consumption from August 2007 until its discovery on February 2011.

But Del Prado said the evidence presented by the prosecution fell short in proving the culpability of the respondents.

“If respondents were stealing electricity; their conduct of allowing Veco personnel to have unbridled access to the substation and its accessories could eerily lead to the discovery of the pilferage and expose them to apprehension and prosecution,” Del Prado said.

In fact, Del Prado said Waterfront officials gave full access to the hotel’s electric substation without the presence of any hotel staff.

Based on the evidence submitted to him, Del Prado said the respondents did not interfere in the inspection made by Veco.

“If they knew about the pilferage, they were recklessly exposing themselves to possible prosecution when they sent the letters and when they gave access to the unbridled access to the substation,” the prosecutor said.

Ethel Natera, Veco corporate communications manager, said they intend to file a motion for reconsideration before the prosecutors’ office to contest the ruling.

Maebelle Varron, marketing communications manager of Waterfront, said the management of the five-star hotel is elated with the ruling.

Named respondents in the case were Waterfront Cebu City Hotel Inc., its president Kenneth Gatchalian, area general management for Visayas and Mindanao Marco Protacio, resident manager Carlo Marcelo Sainz, group chief engineer Ferdinand Vincent Lazaro, chief engineer Loulainetto Lauron and assistant engineer Jose Francis Canizares.

The complaint was filed by Ricardo Lacson, vice president for administration and customer service group of Veco.

Electric pilferage is prohibited by Republic Act 7832 or the Anti-Electricity and Electric Transmission Lines/Materials Pilferage Act of 1994.

Under the said law, no one is allowed “to damage or destroy an electric meter, equipment, wire or conduit or allow any of them to be so damaged or destroyed as to interfere with the proper or accurate metering of electric current.” /By Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter

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