MANILA -- (UPDATE) Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said Thursday a consortium that includes tycoon Dennis Uy secured rights to establish the country's third telco while "oozing with preferential treatment."
Trillanes, President Rodrigo Duterte's most vocal critic, quizzed Uy on his ties with the chief executive. Uy admitted to contributing P30 million to Duterte's 2016 campaign.
The senator also got Uy to admit that before Mislatel secured the third telco rights, the businessman flew Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on his private jet.
Medialdea and Esperon are members of the oversight committee on the third telco selection.
Esperon confirmed flying on Uy's jet but clarified that they were not "cooking something up."
"I am not sure when that was but the impression is we were there and we were cooking something up. I just want to refute that," Esperon said.
Officials of Uy's companies contributed to Duterte's 2016 campaign, Trillanes said.
The lawmaker also questioned Uy's qualifications to run a telecommunications firm and raised concerns over the validity of Mislatel's franchise.
"As it is, it's now oozing with preferential treatment and at worst cronyism," Trillanes said.
Defending his qualifications, Uy said: "As a businessman, we are capable in due time to be able to learn and compete. Hindi naman ibig sabihin wala tayong experience hindi tayo pwedeng makalaban sa isang sektor."
(Just because we do not have experience, it does not mean that we cannot compete in a particular sector.)
"The best solution to remove any speculation is to really submit all the necessary requirements that are due everyone," said Sen. Grace Poe, who is leading the third telco hearings.
"Hindi kasalanan na maging kaibigan ninuman. Hindi kasalanan na mamuhunan sa isang bagay lalo na kung makakatulong ito sa taumbayan," Poe said.
(It is not a sin to be friends with anyone. It is not a sin to invest in something, especially if it would benefit the public.)
"Napakahalaga ng isyu na ito. Kailangan mabura natin ang impresyon na meron kinilingan," she said.
(This issue is very important. We have to erase the impression that there was favoritism.)