OSG ASKS SC TO JUNK CHALLENGE VS. MISLATEL
MANILA — Government lawyers asked the Supreme Court (SC) to turn down a suit questioning the awarding of the third telecommunications slot to Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. (Mislatel).
In a 38-page comment, Solicitor General Jose Calida asked for the dismissal of the amended petition filed last December 2018 by Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp. (PT&T) challenging the selection process used by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in selecting the new major player (NMP).
The OSG belied the allegation of PT&T that the NTC committed grave abuse of discretion when it declared the consortium of Udenna Corp. of businessman Dennis Uy and China Telecom, as provisional NMP despite having no valid congressional franchise.
He cited the letter of the House of Representatives committee on legislative franchise dated Nov. 13, 2018, which stated that “the Committee has not received any notice of a judgment from any judicial or quasi-judicial body revoking or cancelling the franchise granted to Mislatel.”
“In this case, petitioner’s allegation that the NMP-SC (selection committee) may have possibly admitted defective documents submitted by the Mislatel Consortium on various grounds had already been addressed by the NMP-SC and its TWG (technical working group) during the detailed evaluation phase of the selection process. Based on the Document Verification Report and the Supplemental Document Verification Report submitted to the NMP-SC, the submitted Selection Documents of Mislatel group is found to be complete, valid and duly executed,” the comment read.
Calida also justified the disqualification of PT&T during the selection process, particularly due to the bidder’s failure to meet the technical requirement set by NTC and lack of certification of technical capability.
“Petitioner, therefore, cannot be considered technically capable because it failed to meet the required scope and period of coverage. It does not provide nationwide operation and it has not been providing telecommunication services for the past 10 years,” he argued.
Calida further explained that even if PT&T has regional operations in Region 4-A (Calabarzon), it “still cannot be considered technically capable as it had admitted several times that it has already ceased its telecommunications services.”
“Notably, petitioner is presently undergoing court-supervised rehabilitation, and has filed court pleadings in rehabilitation and sent official correspondences that are incongruent with its assertion of having national scale operations,” he pointed out.
“In the absence of allegations of arbitrariness or rigging of the selection process, which must be substantiated, the Courts cannot interfere with declaration of the NMP by the NMP-SC and confirmation of the NMP by the NTC En Banc,” Calida said.
The top government counsel also told the Court that the petition should be dismissed on technical ground, particularly for violation of hierarchy of the courts, saying PT&T in fact filed a similar petition before the Makati City Regional Trial Court that it later on withdrew.
“The regional trial courts, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court have concurrent jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari. Such concurrence of jurisdiction, however, does not give a party unbridled freedom to choose the venue of his action lest he ran afoul of the doctrine of hierarchy of courts,” he explained.
“In this case, petitioner directly resorted to the Honorable Court knowing that a writ of certiorari may be issued by the Court of Appeals. Seeking remedy from courts other than the Honorable Court is not unknown to petitioner as it had actually previously filed a Petition for Declaratory relief… before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City, which it eventually withdrew,” Calida added.
PT&T filed the petition after the NTC disqualified it during the selection process for failure to meet the technical capability requirement as it was unable to obtain a certification that it had 10 years of operations on a national scale.
In its petition, PT&T asked the SC to void the disqualification order and also to order the NTC and the selection committee to secure its sealed bid documents and preserve the integrity of the bidding process.
A similar petition was filed before the Court of Appeals (CA) against the NTC selection process for the NMP by NOW Telecom of businessman Mel Velarde in November last year but was recently denied by the appellate court. (PNA)
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