Senate to decide on Mislatel franchise after House resolves ownership issue

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Sen. Grace Poe said on Wednesday, Jan. 30, that a House resolution formalizing the sale of the controlling interest of Mislatel to Davao-based business Dennis Uy has moved to the Senate plenary, allowing senators to discuss the issues surrounding the validity of Mislatel’s franchise.

Sen. Grace Poe (left) presiding during the Senate hearing on Wednesday

Poe, who presided over Wednesday’s hearing on the third telco service provider, said House Concurrent Resolution No. 23 will be taken up in plenary to allow every member to debate on the issue and pave the way for the measure to be put to a vote.

“There are several opinions regarding this. Some legal minds are saying that the Senate can actually cure it by granting the franchise or by accepting the franchise as valid so I will have to consult the members of the public services committee and let them weigh in on that particular opinion,” Poe, public services committee chair, told reporters after the fourth and final hearing on the third telco.

The franchise of Mislatel, the only entity that has a legislative franchise in the winning consortium that bagged the country’s third telco slot, was put into spotlight after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the franchise has been deemed “ipso facto” revoked for non-operation within a year after its franchise was granted in 1998, failure to list in the stock market, and failure to get Congress’ nod when it sold 70 percent shares in 2015.

Asked whether her panel was inclined to recommend the approval of Mislatel’s franchise, Poe said: “Ayokong pangunahan lahat kasi botohan ‘yan. May kanya-kanyang opinyon tungkol diyan, basta ang akin lang ipiniprisinta ko ito… Ayoko munang pangunahan ang magiging desisyon kasi hindi ako ang may monopoliya kung ano ang tama. Kailangan kong dinggin ang iba’t ibang mga naging diskusyon ngayon, mabasa lahat uli at mabalikan.”

Poe’s panel has invited legal experts to the hearing and their positions will be considered when the Senate committee releases its committee report as early as next week.

At the hearing, senators and resource persons debated whether Mislatel still has a valid franchise. They debated as to whether courts or Congress has the power to declare when a franchise has been revoked.

Poe said the Senate may also “cure the defect and questions” surrounding the legality of Mislatel’s franchise.

“We have to cure perhaps the provision not just only Mislatel but the general franchise provision to make it clear who has the power to ipso facto revoke,” said Poe.

Poe warned the consortium that in the event the Senate and Congress as a whole give the green light to the franchise, it may undergo protracted legal proceedings in case some quarters question the franchise in the courts.

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