SMC benefits from Congress lobby?

A FULL blown controversy looms in the telecommunications horizon when industry giant Smart Communications unwittingly opened a can of worms when it recently asked the House of Representatives to exempt it from paying local taxes.

To strengthen the basis for their request, lawyers of Smart cited the 25-year franchise Congress reportedly gave to San Miguel Corp.-owned Bell Telecommunications last year that supposedly contained the tax exempt privilege. 

The request however appeared to have opened a Pandora’s Box after the lawmakers realized that they were not aware that a franchise was granted by the previous Congress to Bell Tel on July 27, 2015 much more the tax exemptions that came with it.

*****

House Deputy Speakers Romero Quimbo and Raneo Abu were surprised. 

They said they were not aware Congress granted Bell Tel’s legislative franchise – valid until mid-2040 – was approved as Republic Act 10900.

Under House rules, tax incentives sought by companies should pass through the ways and means committee, which Quimbo headed in the past Congress. 

“Smart was invoking that they should be given the same tax privileges as those contained in Bell Tel’s franchise,” Quimbo said. “The members, including myself, were surprised to see that the franchise had been approved without passing through my committee.”

All measures that contain tax provisions should pass through the committee on ways and means and thus the questioned franchise reeks of anomaly and legal infirmity. 

For his part, Abu said the provisions pertaining to revenues and incentives should have gone through Quimbo’s panel before their approval on third and final reading during the previous Congress.

It is normal for Congressmen Abu and Quimbo therefore to raise a howl since it was clear as day that the approval of the supposed franchise was highly irregular.

*****

The surprise in Rep. Quimbo and Abu tells us of a possible crime committed by our solons. And the fact that this has become a law tells us that there was collusion like our congress works like a syndicate. 

The only explanation this crime came to pass is money, big time lobby money.  

The net effect of this crime is government has been deprived of revenues at a time when the government is hard put in raising money to fund infrastructrue and other developments. 

While the government lost revenues, some people could have lined their pockets when the dubious franchise was granted to SMC.

If true, our lawmakers should not take this matter sitting down and must conduct a probe because it might open a Pandora’s Box.

Who knows? It might not be the first time that a supposed franchise or even legislation was passed without undergoing proper procedures and was railroaded through the use of grease money.

Big conglomerates and corporations are known to be all too willing to shell huge amounts of money if they know that they could recoup them in a while as they laugh their way to bank through the rest of their corporate life.

*****

Deliberate or not, Smart Communications which was in the process of renewing its franchise this year, was driven by greed despite earning billions of pesos yearly when it asked for similar tax incentives.

If the lawmakers were not alert, the request of Smart could have been granted and before we know it Globe that likewise earns billions of pesos annually despite inefficient service would come knocking on the door of Congress also.

Instead, a full blown investigation might be in order for them. 

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