Senate panel resumes third telco probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Senate holds its final hearing on the country's third telecommunications (telco) player on Wednesday.

Senate Committee on Public Services Chairperson Grace Poe said the hearing is meant to shed some light on the issues surrounding the franchise of the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, the firm which won the selection process as a consortium with Dennis Uy's Udenna Corporation and foreign state-owned China Telecommunications Corporation (China Telecom).

"Our committee needs to settle the issue of Mislatel's franchise for the public good. We need to hear the positions of various agencies and our fellow senators on this matter and we will come up with our position soonest," Poe said in a statement Tuesday.

In a previous hearing held January 24, Senator Franklin Drilon questioned the validity of Mislatel's franchise. He said the franchise that was granted to it in 1998 came with a condition that the company should be operational within a year.

"When you violate the terms, the franchise is ipso facto revoked," Drilon said.

Mislatel President Nicanor Escalante said that the company was unable to meet the condition due to peace and order problems in its base of operations in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In a Facebook post Sunday, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio defended the selection process that led to the Mislatel Consortium's winning bid.

Rio said that it's up to the Supreme Court, and not the Senate, to declare a franchise revoked.

"To date, no quo warranto proceeding has been filed by the State against Mislatel. The truth is that so many telcos may have in one way or another 'violated' their franchises, but without due process, none of these franchises have been actually revoked," Rio said.

To clarify the issue, the Committee on Public Services invited Rio, Justice Secretary Mernardo Guevarra, Solicitor General Jose Calida, National Telecommunications Commission Chairperson Gamaliel Codroba, Philippine Competition Commission Chairperson Arsenio Balisacan and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairperson Emilio Aquino to the hearing.

The committee is also expected to discuss the Senate Resolution on allowing motorcycle taxis in Metro Manila.