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Primer on Con-Com draft federal charter: Part Nineteen

Con-Com 2018 Member

Q: Why is there a need for a Federal Competition Commission?

A: The Philippine economy is crippled by monopolies, duopolies, and restraints to free trade.  The workings of complicated business and corporate schemes that may involve mergers and acquisitions resulting in the concentration of commerce and trade in the hands of a few are beyond the understanding of the average Filipino.  There has to be some government agency that sees to it that fair competition flourishes and inures to the benefit of the ordinary Filipino in terms of more favorable services and fairer prices.

Q: What happens when the Commission discovers that a corporation has spin-offs that allow the very same investors and moguls control over other enterprises?

A:  Very importantly, the Commission has the power to order corporate reorganization and divestment, and it can enforce these orders because it has the power to impose sanctions, fines or penalties for non-compliance.

Q:   When a violation of competition law is committed, is the jurisdiction with the courts or with the Commission?

A:  The Draft grant of power reads: “It shall exercise the following powers and duties xxx (a) Conduct inquiry, investigate, hear and decide cases involving any violation of competition laws upon receipt of a verified complaint, or at their own instance, or upon referral by the concerned regulatory agency, and institute the appropriate civil or criminal proceedings.”  This is very like the grant of authority to the Intellectual Property Office, Bureau of Legal Affairs.  Clearly, the Commission has the power to decide cases of violation of the competition law.  But as clearly, this does not deprive ordinary courts of their jurisdiction.  Harmonizing the provisions then, the regular courts exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction; the Commission exercises administrative jurisdiction.

Q: When wrong-doing or devices in furtherance of monopoly or restraint of trade are in a corporation’s books, and the Commission requires these to be produced, can the corporation refuse on the ground that doing so would incriminate itself as a juridical person?

A: It has long been settled that owing to the artificiality of the personality of a corporation and the public interest there is in superintending such entities—that can indeed be very complicated—a corporation is unable to invoke the right against self-incrimination.

Q: Most regulatory agencies put all their effort into the punishment of wrong-doing or the investigation of violations.  Does the Commission have any positive or affirmative functions?

A: Yes, it issues advisory opinions and guidelines on competition matters to further robust competition; it monitors and analyzes the practice of competition in markets that affect the Philippine economy—calling for a very strong research complement.

Topics: Federal Competition Commission , Philippine economy , Intellectual Property Office , Bureau of Legal Affairs
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