Lawyer advocacy group warned that President Duterte’s threat to “expropriate” the country’s two established telecommunications companies as baseless and would violate the constitution.
In a released public statement, Tagapagtanggol ng Watawat (Defenders of the Flag), a group of lawyers advocating to uphold the constitution and the rule of law said that they do not find any compelling reason for government to resort to the drastic measure of taking over Smart and Globe.
The group’s spokesperson and convenor, Atty. Arnel Victor C. Valeña, said that according to Article XII, Section 17 of the Constitution, the State is authorized to “temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest.” This may be done only “in times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires.”
Valeña points out that the President’ mere dissatisfaction with the “less-than-ideal service that the public is getting” from Smart and Globe, including aborted calls is not cause for government to take over.
“We are not aware of any emergency and do not find any compelling reason for the government to resort to the drastic measure of taking over Smart and Globe,” Valeña said.
“Even in the middle of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, we do not think it is in the interest of the public to jeopardize telecommunications services and cause unnecessary uncertainty to the people who are now forced to rely on online commerce, work-from-home set-ups and distance learning,” he added.
The lawyer group noted that bureaucratic and regulatory issues have consistently hampered the construction of new cell sites that could have improved reception.
“The State ought to flex its regulatory muscle and exercise all reasonable means first to enable, as well as compel, the telecommunications companies to improve their services. It should not expect recurring issues to be resolved in a snap without proper intervention and regulation. We have not seen any sufficient efforts by the government in that regard,” The group said.