Ledesma: Never make a fool of Duterte (First of 2 parts)

LAST Monday’s Cabinet meeting saw Pres. Rodrigo Duterte blow his top when he was appraised by DICT Sec. Eliseo Rio that some telecom firms aspiring to be the 3rd Telecom Player in the country requested to extend the March 15 deadline to May for them to submit their documents to show proof they have the credentials to compete with the PLDT/Smart and Globe duopoly. Earlier he was already fuming mad over PLDT’s Manny Pangilinan overture that government must reimburse PLDT a sum of P3-billion alleging that they pour billions of pesos using the Connectivity Unlimited Resource Enterprises (CURE) frequency.

Duterte did not buy that story. The man spent a lot of time studying the rudiments of information and communications technology and the internet of things after early in his presidency MVP casually made a remark that the new administration should leave the telecom industry and made inference that none in the Duterte cabinet have the grasp of the complexities of ICT.

They gravely underestimated the man maybe because he kept on saying his passing average was anywhere between 75% and 79%. Up to this time not a few fell into that trap, the President’s humor to spice his speech to make them listen to the rest of his message. As you see, Duterte is not a good speaker in the caliber of his predecessors, but he is the most listened to. Just separate the chaff from the grains and you have the most sterling speech that is full of political wisdom and doable projects.

Consider these: What is so complicated in learning that CURE was an enfranchised entity controlled by Roberto Ongpin and was one of the four awardees that was given a frequency band of two x 10 MHz in a “beauty contest “ staged by NTC to bring 3G mobile network in the country since existing 2G networks can’t offer higher data service. For a bar passer like Duterte who knows the Constitution and can recite articles from it without groping for the next word, this item is so simple to absorb.

Before Duterte was insulted for someone’s remark that his knowledge of telecom technology and the industry itself is zero, he researched and then learned the other three awardees were Smart, Globe and Digitel. This is not a very challenging data to imbibe.

From there he learned that other than the regular recurring payment of spectrum user’s fee (SUF) , the government has not imposed any upfront fee from the awardees. Now that is very revealing so now we are beginning to understand where Duterte is coming from when PLDT/Smart demanded that the government has to pay P3-billion for the frequency it had awarded for free!

Thus we hear the President speak with confidence that Frequency Spectrum is a national patrimony and should not be a subject of anyone’s commercial transaction. He knew that the government assigned the frequency bands with the understanding that the awardees will establish the infrastructure to offer the services needed by the public . CURE didn’t do this but instead Ongpin parlayed CURE with its valuable 3G frequency grant by selling the company to Smart /PLDT of course at a very handsome price. The National Telecommunications Commission at that time did not object, the president was informed. (To be continued tomorrow)
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