Hb No. 78 – A Strike Against the Poor
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 business and industries. The proposed amendments of HB 78 to the current PSA, will try to outmaneuver the 1987 Constitution by providing a concrete yet 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 reason 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 act which 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 the 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 being 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.
PMPI condemns this proposed measure, this is a clear pretext for a de facto martial law and will add up to more human rights violations. This has implications to the work of civil society organizations who are critical of the anti-poor actions of this government. It could likewise paralyze and affect the work of some humanitarian groups in vulnerable communities aswell as rights defenders due to irresponsible and widespread practice of red-tagging done by people in government and military including those propagating fake news online.
SB No. 1083 will certainly exempt no one, whether you are a lawyer, media , indigenous people, part of a labor union, farmer, church people, and more so if your are a political dissenter.
Our lawmakers should know better that a problem lies in the definition of terrorism, especially if you are working under this current administration that is intolerant of criticisms and dissent. We urge on our lawmakers to take this into consideration, not turn a blind eye and instead provide real safeguards for the people from the abusive authority.
The gravity of being labeled as “terrorist” by a mere suspicion, and be detained for 14 days without judicial warrant of arrest is surely distressing.
And all these are happening and skipping our radar of concern while we are all distressed and anxious about COVID-19. As we urge the public to be aware, take measures and be extra cautious of the COVID-19 virus, we also urge everyone to be more extra vigilant and observant of development in our political affairs. As the adjournment of session in both houses of Congress comes to a close, our lawmakers are also inching on their political influence and interests and to the detriment of the Filipino people.