By Richard Orsino
Recently, a phenomenal show has emerged, scoring an all-time high rating elbow-to-elbow with ABS-CBN’s late-night teleserye Halik. Too bad, your guess is not as good as mine. I was referring to our first-ever telcoserye, a spontaneously concocted drama that emerged from President Rodrigo R. Duterte administration’s search for a new major player for the Philippines’ telecommunications industry.
Predicted to be far from over, the telcoserye has been extended with more dramatic episodes as the seventh of November turned out to be the climax rather than the resolution of the story. With more characters coming into picture and more people providing their “expert” opinion, the public, being the truly interested party, is forced to keep watch even if the direction of the story is becoming vaguer by the day.
The ambiguities of the telcoserye, further aggravated by various interpretations of so-called “experts” gave birth to sidesplitting gossips that must be debunked.
Fallacies vs reality
China Telecom’s inclusion alone in the Mislatel consortium led to the convenient allegation that it was the realization of Duterte’s earlier pronouncements that he offered to the People’s Republic of China the privilege to operate the third telecoms carrier in the country.
Said convenient allegation became seemingly more illusory with China Telecom’s partnership with Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp., owned by Davao business tycoon Dennis Uy, reported to be one of Duterte’s election fund contributors.
With or without a categorical denial from Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, there is nothing difficult with concluding that such fallacious allegations is nothing more than mere gossip. Like all other gossip items, they have no weight. Nor will they bring anything beneficial to our lives.
Let us not rob the Mislatel consortium the credit it deserves, having met all the qualifications and followed all the rules during the selection process. We watched it place its bid fair and square. It complied with all the requirements.
Given the time afforded to the participants to prepare for the big day, other bidders still disappointingly failed to do so as if they were attending a laboratory activity with incomplete materials. Too bad, unlike in the classroom setting, the strict committee would not allow them to ask their bid competitor to supply them with P700-million security or technical capacity certificate during the checking of papers. Oh wait, we saw one bidder trying to persuade the other bidder to complain about them during the proceedings, right? Too bad, it did not work. Besides, it was inappropriate.
Stick with DICT Assistant Secretary Eliseo Rio’s statement in his recent ANC interview, “We did not look at personalities. We did not look at whoever is close to the President. We looked at documents.” Forget then the fallacies and allegations. What we saw should be what we believe. We are even empowered to replay on Facebook what really happened.
Came Nov. 7, we were all excited not only to know who would emerge as our NMP, but also, it was our first time—and the first in the Philippine history—to witness a bidding for a big-ticket item. This level of transparency should be commended as a major milestone of the government and agencies should follow suit.
We thought the drama would end with NOW Telecom’s TRO prayer being dismissed by the court, lack of participation in the bidding, and subsequent exit with a message consistent with the true spirit of Christmas season—“whoever emerged as the winner we must help them succeed against the true enemy of the people.” We were wrong.
High hopes for a truly entertaining bidding, much like in a beauty pageant or basketball game, became shattered after two of the three participants—PT&T and Sear Telecom—were disqualified due to incomplete requirements. We could only hope that they put up a good fight by submitting actual requirements in accordance to the rules and when it would have mattered, not with their plot twists filled with motions for reconsideration.
If you were disappointed, in which bidder should you be disappointed? Were you disappointed with the Mislatel consortium because they were diligent enough to ensure that the requirements placed in that fancy luggage were complete? I was not. I was disappointed with PT&T and Sear Telecom for coming to the selection day with those fancy corporate suits and incomplete requirements and continuing to waste our mobile data with their erroneous motions and whining.
I felt bad for the NMP selection committee having to work over the weekend, missing their family time just to beat the three-day calendar only to decide over issues that are outside its jurisdiction. It was hard to believe that Sear’s lawyers did not know that their contractual issue alleged between Mislatel and Digiphil should have been brought to regular courts instead. More so, we, the public, were certainly not interested to their private undertakings.
Furthermore, it certainly upsets me knowing that PT&T thought it could trick the government and public to believe that it has been operating for 10 years where in fact, it went under rehabilitation. Worse, its SSS dues to its employees remain unpaid.
With Sear and PT&T’s mere incapacity to comply with the basic requirements to become our third telco, what kind of service can we expect from them? We are so done with mediocrity and false promises, aren’t we?
The future of bidding
Drama aside, I move that this quality and manner of bidding for multimillion projects be continued with improvements. Senate President Vicente Sotto III proposed that bidders, through a waiver, should be prohibited from protesting the decision of a government agency should they lose the bidding. He based his proposal from observations that the disputes such as in the third telco bidding always happen in many bidding processes to the inconvenience of the government. Therefore, protests of the losing bidders unduly delay the government’s procurement of goods and services.
Whether or not waiver of protests will make it to the procurement rulebook, one thing is clear—our NMP is still provisional and remains unable to work for us because of motions not worth our slightest consideration.
If their next motion will state their true intention to become teleserye producers, maybe we can reconsider. They seem to have been so enjoying the plot twists and limelight after all.
Finally, it is time to set our priorities straight once and for all. Why do we need and want an NMP?
The bottom line is that an entry of a new player in our telecommunications industry will naturally lead to an increased competition— more choices for consumers, improvement in the quality of services and lower subscription costs. All other economic benefits will follow.
We want no more drama. We want to see Mislatel, our NMP, in action.
Richard Orsino is a retired executive who worked three decades in the telecommunications industry.