MANILA – The Court of Appeals (CA) is allowing subscribers to intervene in the P7 billion refund case involving the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the country's major telecommunication companies.
The CA's Special Sixth Division, in a 5-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla, ruled that movant-intervenors led by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate were able to show that they have "substantial rights or interests in the case."
The CA also held that former Kabataan partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino, CP-Union Org. Inc. national coordinator Ricardo Bahague and Anakbayan chairperson Vencer Mari Crisostomo should be allowed to intervene in the case.
"As shown from the record, movant-intervenors have sufficiently presented substantial rights or interests in the case. They are subscribers and users of the messaging services of Digitel and Smart who will be duly affected by any judgment that this Court will render in this case,” the CA said.
The appellate court added that telco services are affected by a high degree of public interest and companies that offer these services have been regulated as common carriers.
It also cited the 1936 Public Service Act, which classified wireless communications systems as “public service” along with other carriers.
"Further, their rights or interests over this controversy cannot be adequately pursued and protected in another proceeding. Thus, we deem it judicious to allow movant-intervenors to intervene and adjudicate their cause in this case," the CA said.
Digitel Philippines and Smart Communications opposed the intervention of the groups in the case, saying the movant-intervenors do not have any legal interest and the intervention will only unduly delay the case and prejudice the adjudication of the case on the merits.
The CA, however, said it found it important “to settle the controversy as fully and expeditiously as possible considering that the issues herein involve public interest. Hence, we will permit any evidence which will aid this Court to attain this goal, after a finding that movants-intervenors have locus standi (legal standing) in this case.”
The movant-intervenors, in its petition, sought to intervene in the petitions filed by Globe Telecom, Smart and Digitel seeking to stop the NTC from implementing its order for them to grant a refund to their respective subscribers.
"As members of the public, intervenors are but instruments of a public concern. The constitutional right of the people to their property has been violated. Intervenors have the duty to see that a public wrong is corrected and a public grievance is sufficiently remedied," the intervenors said.
"The continued illegal collection by petitioner of excess interconnection charges is a public wrong and it is only in having the money unlawfully collected returned to the public subscribers that there can be a semblance of remedy to the wrongful act of the petitioner," they added.