Lawyers group says: Expropriation of telcos ‘baseless, unconstitutional’

President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to “expropriate” the country’s  telecom duopoly is baseless and unconstitutional.

The government has no reason to take over Smart Communications Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc., says Tagapagtanggol ng Watatawat (Defenders of the Flag), a group of lawyers' advocates.

Under the Constitution, the government can “temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately owned public utility or business" in times of national emergency, "when the public interest so requires”, group’s Spokesperson Atty. Arnel Victor C. Valen pointed out.

The President’ mere dissatisfaction with the “less-than-ideal service that the public is getting” from Smart and Globe, including aborted calls, is no cause for government takeover.

“We are not aware of any emergency and do not find any compelling reason for such a drastic measure,” he emphasized.

“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 setups and distance learning.”

On the other hand, regulatory issues have long hampered the construction of new cell sites that could have improved reception and access.

“The State 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 concluded.