ARTA reverses its approval on NOW Telecom, Newsnet cases

Published June 23, 2022, 5:24 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Anti Red Tape Authority (ARTA) has reversed its earlier ruling by setting aside its Declaration of Completeness and Order of Automatic Approval it issued for News and Entertainment Network Corporation (Newsnet) and Now Telecom Company, Inc. (NOW Telecom).

ARTA issued two separate Resolutions on June 17, 2022, aligning itself with the ruling of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on July 9, 2021 that has become final and executory and affirmed the authority of the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) in assigning and use of frequency.

The DOJ Resolution stated that petitioner NTC’s function of assigning and use of frequency is not covered by the 3-7-20 day timeline and “Deemed Automatic Approval” clause under the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Act that created ARTA.

In 2019, Newsnet filed a formal complaint before the ARTA seeking automatic approval of its Provisional Authority and the use of frequencies nationwide which ARTA granted. NTC filed a petition for Adjudication in 2020 before the DOJ questioning ARTA’s jurisdiction over its quasi-judicial powers. In 2020, NOW Telecom filed a similar Formal Complaint before the ARTA also seeking automatic approval and assignment of various frequencies which ARTA also granted.

But the DOJ decision reversed and set aside the Order of Automatic Approval earlier issued by the ARTA in favor of Newsnet, upholding that the EODB Act did not apply to proceedings before the NTC with respect to the assignment and use of frequencies.

ARTA appealed the DOJ decision to the Office of the President (OP), which dismissed the appeal on Nov. 15, 2021. ARTA’s Motion for Reconsideration was also denied by the OP in a Resolution on Feb. 8, 2022. This was subsequently declared final and executory by the OP in an Order dated 25 April 2022.

In its latest Resolutions, ARTA concluded that the DOJ decision “dated July 9, 2021, as well as the opinion and rationale contained therein binds ARTA in disposing cases pertaining to NTC now that the said DOJ Resolution has already become final and executory.”

ARTA even cited the Uniform Rules on Dispute Resolution under Presidential Decree No. 242 which states that “The said resolution is final and binding upon parties, and shall have the same force and effect of a final decision of a court of justice.”

The two ARTA Resolutions were signed by Officer-In-Charge Anti-Red Tape Authority Atty. Ernesto V. Perez, OIC Director for Investigation, Enforcement and Litigation Office (IELO) Atty. Leonardo O. Tapia and Attorney III, Litigation Division Atty. John Ramil V. Rabe.

It could be recalled that DITO Telecommunity Corp., whose frequency was affected by ARTA’s earlier decision, filed a complaint against the decision of ARTA.

On May 24, 2022, the Office of the Ombudsman preventively suspended key officials of the ARTA headed by its Director General Jeremiah B. Belgica for six months over the NOW Telecom case filed by DITO. NOW Telecom and Newsnet are affiliates of NOW Corporation.