THE Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation on Friday dismissed the notices of garnishment issued by the lower court in connection with a class-action suit filed by NPC Drivers and Mechanics Association (NPC-DAMA).
The ex-officio Sheriff of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QCRTC) has issued the notices of garnishment, the amount of which has been set at more than P60 billion, to PSALM’s banks, customers, and other energy industry partners.
This is purportedly in accordance with the Supreme Court 3rd Special Division’s Resolution issued last 30 June upholding a 2011 judgment in favor of the class suit filed by NPC-DAMA against the National Power Corporation (Napocor) and PSALM.
The suit had accused Napocor of illegally terminating employees when the government-owned power firm was transferred to PSALM; as the successor company and receiver of Napocor’s assets and liabilities, PSALM was also impleaded in the suit.
In dismissing the sheriffs’ move, PSALM Corporation President and CEO Emmanuel R. Ledesma, Jr. described the notices of garnishment as “patently void.”
“The sheriffs’ notices of garnishment are legally baseless, violative of due process, premature at best, and hence patently void,” said Ledesma.
The amount of PSALM’s alleged payables was set by the sheriffs at P60.24 billion for the class suit petitioners, a total of 8,018 beneficiaries based on the petitioners’ representation to the Supreme Court.
The amount includes a 10 percent lien amounting to P6.02 billion for the petitioners’ two lawyers, and P1.8 billion for the QCRTC in fees and costs for the execution of the Supreme Court’s resolution.
At the same time, the sheriffs also issued a demand against PSALM for the immediate settlement of the same amounts of money.
But Ledesma explained that pursuant to established jurisprudence, public policy considerations dictate “that government funds dedicated for specific public uses may not be diverted for other purposes and seized under writs of garnishment to satisfy monetary judgments by courts.”
He also said that all disbursements of public funds should be covered by an appropriation from Congress to avoid disruption of public functions.
“Jurisprudence likewise provides that a money claim against the government, despite validation in a final and executory judgment, should first be filed with the Commission on Audit (COA) given its primary jurisdiction to examine, audit, and settle all claims against the government pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1445,” he added.
These safeguards, Ledesma said, are embodied in Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 10-2000 issued on October 25, 2000 addressed to judges of lower courts, which was echoed in COA Circular No. 20.
Ledesma also pointed out that the sheriffs’ actions are manifestly inconsistent with the express terms of the Supreme Court’s earlier Resolution issued on December 2, 2009 on the same case.
He said the 2009 Resolution, which still holds true, emphasizes PSALM’s right to due process and PSALM’s mere subsidiary liability.
Ledesma also contended that PSALM was not a party to the case thus, petitioners should not go after its properties. This appears to be contradicted by the 2009 Resolution (G.R. 156208), however, as it specifically directed the court to implead PSALM in the case.
Ledesma pointed out, however, that the resolution also stipulated PSALM’s participation in the case is necessary to prevent the levying of properties other than that it had acquired from NPC without being afforded due process by the courts.
“Such a proceeding is to be conducted in the proper forum where the petitioners may take the appropriate action,” he added.
In order to preclude any devastating effects on the general welfare and the country’s energy security and financial stability, PSALM cautioned recipients of the notices of garnishment against unlawfully, carelessly, and hastily releasing PSALM’s receivables or bank deposits in their possession.