Amid these trying times in our public health situation because of the sudden rise of cases of COVID-19, our lawmakers in the House of Representatives have the temerity to pass in the third and final reading the proposed House Bill No. 78 or the Public Service Act (PSA) of Albay 2 District Rep. Joey Salceda, like a thief in the night.
We, from the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), a network of civil society organizations, rights groups, peace, and faith-based institutions believe that HB 78, which seeks to amend the Commonwealth Act of 146, to allow full foreign ownership in telecommunications and transportation is another anti-poor law.
The mere fact that it attempts to remove restrictions on several economic areas is another hit to the labor force and consumers as foreign companies could easily dictate numbers and prices. HB 78 could also put our national security at risk since foreign-owned telecommunication companies could possibly control our strategic business sector.
In our 1987 Constitution under Article XII, Section 11 prohibits full foreign ownership of various businesses and industries. The proposed amendments of HB 78 to the current PSA, will try to outmaneuver the 1987 Constitution by providing a concrete yet the sneaky definition of what ‘public utility’ is, which in effect allows telecommunications and transportation companies to be fully owned by foreigners. This is clearly a violation of the fundamental law of the land.
Lawmakers who are pro-HB 78 reasons out that there is a need for a drastic change in our telecommunications and transportation services, and the proposed bill is trying to attract more foreign direct investments, better competition, economic growth, and even more jobs. Surely these sounds like a sound solution to a problematic service sector. However, HB 78 clearly surrenders the primacy of public interest and diminishes congressional scrutiny over these critical regulated sectors. Such an act that gives too much immunity to foreign capitalists could lead us into a pit instead of real comfort.
Anti-Terrorism Act – an outright assault to democracy
Another measure seeking to give more teeth to the Human Security Act of 2007 is Senate Bill No. 1083 or Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 passed in the Senate last March 3.
Still not content at the rate where several democratic institutions have shrunk and have been controlled by the ruling political party headed by the President, the anti-terrorism act will further try to constrict people’s freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, liberty, and movement as well as the right to privacy.
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