Poe: Let courts rule on Mislatel franchise
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee, endorsed to the plenary on Monday night the approval of the transfer of the franchise of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. (Mislatel) to a consortium owned by President Rodrigo Duterte’s close friend and campaign financier.
But Poe said the Senate’s approval of the transfer of Mislatel’s franchise to the consortium would not bar anyone from questioning its legality in court.
“As regards the ‘red flags’ and ‘allegations of violations’ against Mislatel, interested parties are never precluded to avail [themselves] of legal remedies in the regular courts,” she said.
Mislatel was declared the winning bidder to be the country’s third telco in November last year.
The consortium is a 60-40 venture between Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics Holdings, and state-owned China Telecom.
Poe said it was now up to her fellow senators if they would find merit in Mislatel’s application for transfer of franchise and vote for the adoption of the committee report.
“We are already near the finish line in this journey to have faster and better services in the telco industry,” Poe said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It’s for national interest that I’m doing this,” Poe said.
She said the franchise remained valid unless there had been a congressional action on the matter.
“Congress has to act on it. And since no process of that took place, then their franchise is valid,” she said.
Her endorsement of Mislatel as the country’s third telco came after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon challenged the validity of Mislatel’s franchise.
Drilon, a former justice secretary, said Mislatel’s original franchise was deemed void for not complying with some conditions after its grant in 1998.
Among the conditions are its failure to start operations within a year from the approval of its permit by the National Telecommunications Commission, to operate continuously for two years and to begin operations within three years from the effectivity of the granting it a congressional franchise.
Drilon also contended that the transfer of the Mislatel franchise to the current majority owners in 2015 was void because it lacked congressional approval.
“Senator Drilon is correct when he says that there are certain requirements that we should comply with if you are granted a franchise. One, it should be in operation one year after you received the franchise,” Poe said in an interview.
She said clearly Mislatel did not comply with that requirement.
Under Republic Act No. 8627, the law which granted Mislatel’s franchise, legislators were allowed to “alter, modify or repeal the franchise,” she said.
“Besides, Mislatel stands to lose more than P25 billion should they mess up with their commitments,” Poe said, referring to the performance bond that Mislatel was required to pay to the government.
She said she was banking on Mislatel consortium to keep its word to provide 27 mbps of internet speed to 37 percent of the population in the first year of operations.
Poe said Mislatel’s entry would not only break the longtime duopoly of PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom, but also give the Philippines a chance to better its mobile phone service and internet speed, regarded as one of the slowest in the world.
“Now, we are given the golden chance to possibly initiate a turnaround from being cellar-dwellers to a rising star in terms of internet speed in the telco industry,” she said.
“An efficient, faster and better telephone and internet services will help improve every home and the lives of family members who are far from one another,” she said. —Marlon Ramos
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