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PLDT tells PCC: Shut up

/ 12:03 AM October 11, 2016

Telco giant PLDT Inc. wants a court to gag the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), saying the latter’s public statements were luring public sympathy in the midst of a legal row over the massive acquisition of San Miguel Corp.’s (SMC) telco unit last May 30.

Citing the PCC’s press interviews and a damaging preliminary investigation report into the P70-billion SMC deal, PLDT said it feared those actions “may lead to unintended prejudice whilst the case is ongoing.”

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PLDT filed before the Court of Appeals last Sept. 30 an urgent motion for the issuance of a gag order, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer. It also asked the court to cite PCC in indirect contempt should it continue to make announcements.

This came days after the PCC held its first press conference and a month since it published its preliminary statement of concerns, where it said PLDT and Globe’s joint buyout of SMC’s telco unit was likely uncompetitive and was a prelude to more “cartel-like behavior.”

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“Due to the sensitive nature of the acquisition, and the high public interest in this case, PLDT is concerned of the possible prejudices and influences that may seep into this Honorable Court’s deliberation,” PLDT said in its motion filed before the 12th division of the Court of Appeals.

PLDT and Globe sued the PCC last July in a bid to stop the government antitrust body from completing a detailed investigation into their joint acquisition of SMC’s Vega Telecom, which held valuable radio frequencies.

The telcos said the frequencies, especially those in the coveted 700 megahertz spectrum, were needed to improve mobile internet services.

However, critics said the two players merely wanted to strengthen their hold over the country’s telco industry, which is rapidly shifting into lucrative data services, while locking out viable new competition.

In its findings, PCC said PLDT and Globe now controlled 78 percent of all available telco radio frequencies after the SMC deal as against 53 percent prior.

Also at the heart of the legal battle was whether the acquisition required the PCC’s approval.

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