PCC takes buyout battle with telcos to Supreme Court

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) elevated the P69.1-billion San Miguel Corporation (SMC) telecommunications buyout deal case to the Supreme Court (SC), asking it to lift the injunction on the review of the transaction and to prevent parties from further implementing terms of the deal.

PCC Chairman Arsenio Balisacan said in a media briefing that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed a petition on behalf of the PCC last Tuesday, April 18. (READ: CA stops PCC review of San Miguel telco buyout deal)

The Court of Appeals (CA) Special 12th Division earlier denied the petition of the PCC to be allowed to review and investigate PLDT Incorporated and Globe Telecom Incorporated's buyout deal of the telecommunication assets of SMC.

"By this petition, we elevate the matter to the highest court of the land to finally allow us to fulfill our legal mandate in the interest of promoting competition in the telco market," Balisacan said on Wednesday, April 19, in Pasig City. 

Balisacan said the petition aims to do 3 things:

"Through this petition, we also would like to send a strong message to consumers and businesses that the PCC – as the country's primary competition authority – will not back down," Balisacan said. (READ: San Miguel's sale of telco business: Will consumers benefit?)

"[We] will not back down or be intimidated by companies who have grown accustomed to unregulated business practices that hamper competition and ultimately hurt consumers," he added.

PCC Commissioner Johannes Bernabe said on the sidelines of the briefing that the petition only pertains to PLDT, because the CA 6th Division denied Globe's petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction against the review of its transaction with PLDT and San Miguel.

Although the CA approved Globe's urgent motion to consolidate its petition with that of PLDT, Bernabe said that this does not mean the CA 6th Division's decision to allow the PCC to review the transaction is invalid.

"If we will include Globe in the petition, then that is somehow inconsistent – for the lack of a better term – with our position that the CA 6th Division's decision is valid," he explained.

No backing down

For Balisacan, the PCC will continue the fight to pursue the review of the acquisition deal.

"From day one, PLDT and Globe have resisted scrutiny of the telco deal. PCC stands by its position to prioritize the public interest in evaluating the competition concerns in every merger or acquisition deal that falls within its jurisdiction," he said. (READ: Battle lines drawn over San Miguel's telco buyout deal)

The CA Special 12th Division had said that the utilization of the previously unused 700 megahertz (MHz) frequency by PLDT and Globe under a co-use agreement approved by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) will greatly benefit the public.

"Let us make it clear that the CA has not decided on the 'deemed approved’ status of the deal yet. For us, the most important aspect of this transaction is the co-use agreement between the two telcos. We asked for more info on the co-use agreement with respect to 700 MHz," PCC Commissioner Stella Quimbo said during the briefing.

PLDT Spokesperson Ramon Isberto said the telco will defer comment until it gets a copy of the petition.

The PCC has argued that the deal falls within the scope of its review. But PLDT and Globe have insisted that the anti-trust body's transitory rules provided the deal a "deemed approved" status.

Globe and PLDT claim that under the transitory rules of the PCC, the P69.1-billion deal "only needed a notice" to the commission and is "not subject for review."

But the PCC said it is its call if a transaction is "deemed approved" after it determines the sufficiency of requirements. (READ: Jobless soon: 400 consultants of scrapped 3rd telco player)

It was the NTC that approved the co-use arrangement between PLDT's Smart Communications and Globe.

As of 3:11 pm on Wednesday, shares in PLDT plunged to 3.41% or P60 to P1,700 apiece from that of Tuesday. – Rappler.com