NTC denies Globe motion to suspend PLDT-Digitel hearings

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2011 05:43 PM | Updated as of Jul 14 2011 01:43 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has denied Globe Telecom Inc.'s motion to suspend the hearings on rival Philippine Dong Distance Telephone Co.'s (PLDT) acquisition of Digital Telecommunications Inc. (Digitel).

At the same time, the regulator has set the presentation of evidence by oppositors to the deal on July 13 and 14 for Eastern Telecommunications Philippines Inc. and consumer group TxtMate, and July 18 for Globe, NTC's legal department head Dennis Babaran said.

Globe on Tuesday filed motions to suspend proceedings, citing mainly a Supreme Court order to probe foreign ownership in PLDT.

In denying Globe's motions, however, the NTC said the SC has not made a final decision on foreign ownership rules.

"Hence, it does not yet form part of Philippine jurisprudence on which to base the suspension of proceedings, much less the dismissal of the instant case," it said. "The urgent motions to suspend proceedings both filed by Globe on July 12 are hereby denied."

The high court had ordered the Securities and Exchange Commission to review PLDT's ownership structure, noting that the 40% limit on foreign ownership of public utilities in the Constitution pertained to common or voting stock.

According to PLDT, 64% of its common shares is held by foreigners, while the remaining 34% is owned by Filipinos. To comply, PLDT said its board has approved the creation of a new class of redeemable preferred shares, with full voting rights, to dilute foreign ownership.

PLDT hits Globe's 'delaying tactics'

PLDT said Globe acted in bad faith in a desperate effort to delay its transaction with Digitel. PLDT is eyeing to close its P69-billion purchase of 51.5% of Digitel by end-July.

"Instead of arguing their case, Globe has used every excuse to unduly delay the proceedings, disregarding explicit agreements between the concerned parties and the NTC and the order issued by the latter regarding the schedule of the presentation of witnesses," said Ray Espinosa, PLDT's head for regulatory and policy affairs.

Espinosa said Globe failed to submit the judicial affidavit of its witnesses within the period ordered by the NTC.

Globe, during Tuesday's hearing, asked for more time to present Atty. Froilan Castelo, its legal department head, for he was in Brunei for a conference.

"This was after PLDT has already graciously accommodated Globe's frivolous request that their cross examination of Digitel's witnesses be delayed for over a week because their lead counsel, Atty. Rudy Salalima, was going to Geneva for a conference in late June," Espinosa said.

"It is clear that Globe is acting in bad faith," he added.

Group wants pro-consumer NTC ruling

Meanwhile, the Samahan Laban sa Monopolyo (SLAM) urged the NTC to thumb down the PLDT-Digitel deal "because this will lead to their control of about 77% of the public domain that should be strictly regulated."

"We are saddened that the hearing is focusing on the business deal per se and the issue of franchise regulation which is the heart of the problem is being relegated in the sidelines," said SLAM convenor Jess Sandow.

"The consumers will be the ultimate loser of government neglect," Sandow added.

Supporters of the anti-monopoly group who came from the different parts of Metro Manila gathered outside the NTC today to express their opposition to the PLDT-Digitel deal.