Shameless bill defies constitution: exempts telecommunications, power and broadcast media from foreign ownership limits
It is so designed for the interests of the Indonesian tycoon Anthoni Salim and Singapore Telecoms, who are respectively the majority but foreign shareholders of PLDT and Singtel, as well as the Filipino oligarchs who are their minority partners.
The latest Supreme Court ruling from 2016 simply said the Securities and Exchange Commission “had not acted with serious abuse” when it issued its ruling in a memorandum in 2012 that allowed these foreign companies to bypass the constitutional ban. But the SEC under new administrations may issue a new ruling.
Even PLDT in its report to the US SEC recognized this as a major risk for the company: âWe believe that as of the date of this report, PLDT is in compliance with the requirements of the Constitution, and this position has recently been supported by the Supreme Court; however, we cannot assure you that subsequent changes in law or further litigation would not result in a different conclusion. âHence the need for a law that specifically exempts telecoms from constitutional provisions.
So, as if by magic, and overturning the wisdom of the drafters of the Constitution, when this bill becomes law, telecoms, now dominated by foreigners, will no longer be considered a public service. It is therefore exempt from the Constitution’s 40 percent limit on foreign capital in public utility companies.
I challenge the authors to show me any study, or definition by any dictionary, legal or business, that says telecommunications and power generation are not utilities.
The absurdity of HB 5828 is demonstrated by the fact that it lists the distribution of electricity as a utility. But electricity production is not. An analogy would be that milk sold in the supermarket is classified as a non-essential product. But the milk that companies put in cans is not. Mobile phone service is not only essential to the lives of ordinary people, but to almost all economic activities of this era. But it is not a public service. The authors of this bill take us for fools.
It would simply be a hilarious attempt to exclude telecommunications and power from the provision of the Constitution were it not for the fact that Congress has repeatedly proven so malleable to the wishes of the Filipino oligarchy. We do not really know the meaning of the word “oligarchy” if he thinks that his reign does not extend to all administrations.
The authors of the bill did not even bother to explain why they think telecommunications, electricity and audiovisual media are not public services.
Perhaps they cannot say that the bill changes the meaning of public services to accommodate the oligarchs with passive income who are the partners of the controlling foreign companies in these telecommunications operators?
Would you blame me if it occurred to you that Indonesian tycoon Salim not only controls the country’s largest telecommunications company PLDT, but is also engaged in “power generation and supply” industries. that the bill would exempt from the constitutional provision?
The authors of the bill are the former president, now the representative of Pampangga Gloria Arroyo, Arthur Yap, Joey Sarte-Salceda, the former president Feliciano Belmonte with his nephew Jose Christopher Belmonte and the representative of Makati Manuel Monsour Del Rosario. They each tabled their own bill proposing the same redefinition of a “public service”, which were consolidated into a single bill.
Whoever planned this conspiracy to circumvent the Constitution was certainly a skilled operator. Yap was an official in the Arroyo administration, while Salceda was a big vocal supporter of his, all from the then ruling Lakas-CMD party. Belmonte was the chief political lieutenant of then-President Aquino 3rd who threw Arroyo in jail on fragile grounds. The former martial arts instructor and actor del Rosario is running under the leadership of presidential candidate Jejomar Binay’s party, the UNA. (I wonder how the hell the actor del Rosario got interested in regulating public services?)
Belmonte is a business partner of Indonesian magnate Salim who controls PLDT. His family in 2015 sold their controlling shares in the Philippine Star publishing group for 4 billion pesos – a surprisingly extremely high price, according to industry sources – to a PLDT unit that is ultimately controlled by Salim. The family still retains a few shares, with their sons holding senior positions in the Philippine Star newspaper.
Is it just a coincidence that members of Congress from opposing parties suddenly have the brilliant idea of ââchanging the definition of “public services” to exempt telecoms, this country’s most profitable business, from the constitutional limits of? property ?
Is this strategy what we call âcover all partiesâ, also intended to show that there is a consensus for this bill which betrays our national interest. Was this a message to President Pantaleon Alvarez that he would lose the support of four parties, however small, if he did not support the bill?
I had become convinced that the Senate is a useless body, which slows down and even hinders reform, that we desperately need a unicameral parliament. This time however, with HB 5828 already passed by the House of Representatives, only the Senate – and the President of course – remains the last guardian of our Constitution and our nation’s control over public services, I have become a believer in our bicameralism. system.
But given the Senate’s track record, perhaps our only hope is that this outrageous bill that shames the nation and mocks the Constitution is opposed by President Duterte.
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