THE Visayan Electric Co. (Veco) is facing a P1.3-million damage suit for suing one of its consumers the firm accused of stealing power in 2006.

Petitioner Benjamin Cometa filed the complaint before the Regional Trial Court in Cebu City, accusing Veco of giving him a “suffocating ordeal and excruciating rigors” during the trial.

Sought for comment, Veco Corporate Communications Manager Teresa Gonzales Sederiosa said they will issue a statement once they receive a copy of the complaint.

In his complaint, Cometa said a certain Allan Balang and Abdul Sahibol, a Muslim trader, approached him and relayed their intention to lease his house in Barangay Carreta, Cebu City.

Cometa told Balang and Sahibol that his house had no power connection yet, but still they rented the house at P6,000 per month since January 2006.

Cometa said he knew that the lessees engaged in a shell business, but he had no idea what they were doing inside until they vacated the house in March 2006.

Team

Before the lessees vacated the house, a Veco anti-pilferage team conducted a random inspection of the electrical service connections in the vicinity of General Maxilom Ave.

The team found that a solid copper wire was tapped to the power firm’s secondary line and connected to Cometa’s house.

It found that the wire supplied electricity to Cometa’s house without an electric meter.

The firm cut off the connection and billed Cometa P393,722. 36.

When told about the unpaid power consumption, Cometa said he returned to his house and confronted the lessees about the illegal tapping of electricity.

The lessees’ business was eventually closed after the Bureau of Customs confiscated their shell products.

Cometa said he told Veco that he did not have any participation in the alleged power pilferage and that it was his previous renters who stole electricity.

Plea

Despite his plea, Veco filed a criminal complaint for pilfering electricity against Cometa before the Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor.

The complaint was elevated to the court in September 2007, and an arrest warrant for Cometa was subsequently issued.

In September 2014, or about five years later, Regional Trial Court Judge Ramon Daomilas dismissed the pilferage case against Cometa for want of evidence.

Due to the filing of “baseless and unreasonable” charges, Cometa said he suffered “unbearable physical agony, mental anguish, serious anxiety, sleepless nights, besmirched reputation and social humiliation.”

Cometa said he sued to teach Veco “a lesson and to set a public example so that it will not repeat the same act in the future.”

Cometa is asking the court to order Veco to pay him P1 million as moral damages; P200,000 as exemplary damages; P50,000 as attorney’s fees; and another P50,000 for litigation and necessary expenses.