Award of 700 MHz frequency to telco giants challenged before SC

MANILA — A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court (SC) questioning the validity of the “co-use agreement” between telecommunications firm PLDT Inc./Smart Communications Inc. and Globe Telecoms over the contested 700-megahertz (MHz) broadcast frequency and other frequencies, conditionally assigned to them by the National Telecommunications Commission.

In a 48-page petition for mandamus filed on Oct. 23, lawyers Joseph Lemuel Baligod Baquiran and Ferdinand Tecson also sought a temporary restraining order to “enjoin and restrain” the PLDT/Smart and Globe from utilizing the 700MHz broadcast frequency and the following telecom frequencies: 2540-2545 MHz, 2580-2595 MHz, 2535-2540 and 2565-2580 MHz.

PLDT/SMART and Globe acquired rights to the broadcast and telecom frequencies after purchasing Liberty Broadcasting Network Inc. The petitioners said the assignment of the 700 MHz frequency to PLDT/Globe is unconstitutional claiming that under the legislative franchise given to Liberty Broadcasting Network, Inc. in 2012, the frequency was originally intended for television broadcasting and not for telecommunications.

The petitioners also requested the High Court to prohibit the NTC from bidding out or awarding some frequencies returned by the two-telecom giants “in consideration of the approval of the “Co-Use Agreement” to any entity until the SC resolves with finality the constitutional and legal issues raised by the petitioners in this case.

In 2015, Liberty assigned the 700 MHz broadcast frequency and the four said frequencies to BellTel, a subsidiary of Vega Telecommunications, Inc.

The petitioners added that Liberty’s assignment of the 700 MHz frequency and the four sets of telecom frequencies to BellTel were illegal and invalid because under its legislative franchise Republic Act 10183, Liberty cannot lawfully assign the “rights and privileges acquired thereunder” without congressional approval.

The 700 MHz broadcast frequency was acquired under Liberty’s legislative franchise, first under Republic Act 1553, as amended by RA 4154, and subsequently, under RA 10183.

“At the time of the said assignment of the broadcast frequency to BellTel in the early 2015, it is a telecommunications entity authorized to engage solely in telecommunication business and not broadcasting business and it had substantial foreign equity,” the petitioners added. Benjamin Pulta/