Private respondent Express Telecommunications Co., Inc. (ETCI) obtained from Congress Republic Act No. 2090 a franchise to establish radio stations for domestic and transoceanic telecommunications. Petitioner PLDT invoked the “prior operator” or “protection of investment” doctrine in its opposition to ETCI’s subsequent application for Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN). The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) granted provisional authority to ETCI subject to the condition that it shall enter into “interconnection agreement” with PLDT. PLDT elevated the case to the Supreme Court pointing out ETCI’s defective legislative franchise to operate telecommunications system, among others. ETCI contends that PLDT’s special civil action must deal only on issues whether the NTC acted without jurisdiction of with grave abuse of discretion in granting ETCI the assailed provisional authority.
Whether or not:
(1) ETCI is entitled of provisional authority;
(2) R.A. No 2090 partakes ETCI’s valid legislative franchise;
(3) PLDT may refuse NTC Order to enter into “interconnection agreement” with ETCI;
(1) YES. The provisional authority is granted in a very limited sense: for a period of 18 months which may be revoked or revised by NTC, and applicable only in Metro Manila. Contrary to PLDT’s contention that it is nothing short of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), basic differences exist. The issuance of CPCN is still subject to the exclusive prerogative of the NTC after full evaluation of the application.
(2) YES. The NTC construed the technical term in R.A. No. 2090 “radiotelephony” liberally as to include the operation of a cellular mobile telephone system. The construction given by an administrative agency deserves great weight and respect. To otherwise question the validity or applicability of R.A. No. 2090 is a collateral attack on the statute which is not allowed. A franchise is a property right and cannot be revoked or forfeited without due process of law. The determination of the right to the exercise of a franchise, or whether the right to enjoy such privilege has been forfeited by non-user, is more properly the subject of the prerogative writ of quo warranto.
(3) NO. The PLDT cannot justifiably refuse to interconnect. The interconnection which has been required of PLDT is a form of “intervention” with property rights dictated by the encompassing objective for the common good. The NTC, as the regulatory agency of the State, merely exercised its delegated authority to regulate the use of telecommunications networks when it decreed interconnection.