Ex-PCC legal counsel named as Grab Philippines manager

MANILA, Philippines – Ride-hailing giant Grab Philippines' new public affairs manager is a former chief of staff of one of the commissioners of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).

Grab Philippines recently introduced their new leadership structure, with country head-turned-president Brian Cu still at the helm of the ride-hailing giant.

Lawyer Nicka Hosaka, the newest public affairs manager, will be working with its head Leo Gonzales.

Before joining Grab, Hosaka served as the chief of staff and legal counsel of PCC Commissioner Johannes Bernabe from April 2017 to May 2018.

After her stint with the PCC, she became the legal counsel for e-commerce platform Shopee for about 6 months.

Grab's acquisition of Uber's Southeast Asia operations in March 2018 prompted the PCC to review the deal. It bound the ride-hailing firm to fair pricing conditions and service quality commitments.

Compliance monitoring is still ongoing, with the antitrust body imposing another P6.5-million fine on Grab for violating its commitments to the PCC.

Conflict of interest? 

Section 7 (b)(1) of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees does not allow government workers to:

Own, control, manage or accept employment as officer, employee, consultant, counsel, broker, agent, trustee or nominee in any private enterprise regulated, supervised or licensed by their office unless expressly allowed by law

The law states that it "shall continue for a period of one year after resignation, retirement, or separation of office."

In an interview with Rappler, Bernabe said Hosaka is "not covered" by the rule. There's no conflict of interest, he said, with Hosaka being with Grab now.

Bernabe explained that despite reviewing the Grab-Uber buyout, the PCC is neither regulating nor supervising Grab. (READ: Months after Uber left, where are the new ride-hailing firms?)

Bernabe also added that the PCC did not give Grab the license to operate because that falls under the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

"The code of conduct is not applicable in this case. In terms of optics it might create, Nicka never worked on the Grab case. She was never part of the team that conducted the review," Bernabe said.

The commissioner also said that Hosaka had already left the PCC when the antitrust watchdog was reviewing Grab's voluntary commitments.

"Nicka is a very good lawyer and she was a very good staff member. We trust that she will not be involved in anything still pending with the PCC. That's a commitment she made when she went to Shopee," Bernabe told Rappler.

No work overlap

Bernabe expects Hosaka to be hands-off the Grab-Uber deal in terms of lending her legal expertise. 

"That's our expectation. Out of sense of propriety or delicadeza," Bernabe.

Hosaka, in an interview with Rappler, maintained that there is "no conflict whether legal or personal" with her new role in Grab.

"In so far as the transaction was concerned, it was ongoing but it just started when I left. I wasn't involved in the review team. I wasn't even part of any discussions with the parties with Grab or Uber," she said.

When she first met with the ride-hailing giant, Hosaka said she had informed Bernabe of the role. She said the height of the Grab-Uber buyout issue was when she was at Shoppee.

"Now, I am working with [Grab's] public affairs team. With the PCC, I was acting as chief of staff and was doing some legal counsel work for Commissioner Bernabe. There's no overlapping in terms of duties and obligations there," she said.

Hosaka assured that she will not be handling any PCC-related matter while she's working with Grab.

"Right now, while I'm with Grab, Im not handling any PCC matters, also because out of propriety. We don't want to taint anything, even if I am not privy in terms of the Grab-Uber transaction itself," she said.

"Just for propriety and professionalism, I'm not handling any PCC matters," she added. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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