CA stops PCC probe over San Miguel telco buyout

MANILA – The Court of Appeals has issued a preliminary injunction stopping the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) from pushing through with its probe on a telecommunications buyout deal worth Php70-billion that involved industry giants Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), Globe Telecom Inc., and San Miguel Corp. (SMC).

In a seven page-resolution dated Aug. 26, penned by Associate Justice Ramon M. Bato Jr., the CA’s 12 Division granted PLDT’s motion for the issuance of a preliminary injunction even as it also directed the latter to put up a Php1 million bond to answer for whatever damages PCC would suffer should the Court decide that PLDT is not entitled thereto.

The writ specifically enjoins the anti-trust body “from conducting further proceedings for the pre-acquisition review and/or investigation of the subject acquisition.”

The CA added that the issuance of the writ is necessary to protect petitioner’s right to be accorded “safe harbor” or protection from challenge under Republic Act 10667 (Philippine Competition Act).

“After painstaking evaluation of the parties’ arguments, taking into account the pertinent law and jurisprudence, in order to maintain the status quo ante while the case is being judiciously studied and to preserve the rights of the parties during the pendency of the instant petition and no to render ineffectual whatever judgment that may be rendered by this court, it would be more prudent for this court to grant petitioner’s prayer for a preliminary injunction,” the CA ruled.

“We agree with PLDT that due to the ‘deemed approved’ status extended to the subject acquisition by virtue of the transitory rules, at the very least, PLDT has a clear right to be protected from the pre-acquisition review and/or investigation conducted by respondent PCC,” it stressed.

The CA also pointed out that unless enjoined, the implementation of the co-use agreement, which was approved by the National Telecommunications Commission, might be derailed or jeopardized subjecting the company to possible sanctions by the NTC.

The resolution is concurred in by Associate Justices Manuel M. Barrios and Maria Elisa Sempio-Diy.

Globe has filed a similar petition which was consolidated to the petition of the PLDT before the CA 12th division .

In their separate petitions filed before the CA, Globe and PLDT sought to prevent the PCC from conducting full investigation of their co-purchase of the telco assets of San Miguel Corp.

Last May 2016, PLDT and Globe Telecom Inc. (Globe) entered into sale and purchase agreement for all the issued and outstanding shares and assets of Vega Telecom Inc. (VTI), a subsidiary of SMC.

The parties then submitted details of the transaction as well as supporting documents to PCC pursuant to its rules.

In their separate petitions filed before the CA last month, Globe and PLDT questioned PCC’s investigation of their co-purchase of the telco assets of San Miguel.Petitioners argued that the deal has been deemed approved by operation of law since they have fully complied with the terms of the transitory circulars issued by the PCC.

Under PCC circular, acquisition agreement that exceeds Php 1 billion, which is to be executed and implemented after the effectivity of the memorandum circular but before the effectivity of the implementing rules and regulations shall notify the PCC and submit necessary documents.

PLDT argued that the deal has been deemed approved by operation of law since they have fully complied with the terms of the transitory circulars issued by the PCC.

“The legal effects and consequences of such compliance cannot be reversed or undone by the PCC,” the company earlier said.

But PCC said PLDT’s argument was baseless. It insisted that PLDT does not have a “clear and unmistakable legal right” that would be violated by reviewing the acquisition agreement. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA/northboundasia.com