Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Issue No. 29 September 2-8, 2001 Quezon City, Philippines
a new development in the political and economic scene. Something, thank God,
Marx and the cosmic forces, that is unrelated to the Corpus expose, the Estrada
plunder case or the revelations of Fr. Eliseo Nacorda.
week, a group calling itself TxtPower launched what promises to be a Quixotic
battle against the two biggest telecom operators in the country – Smart-PLDT
and Globe Telecom.
issue at hand is the planned cutback on free text messages that cellphone
operators Smart and Globe have been giving their subscribers. TxtPower calls the
plan a “blatant profiteering scheme by monopolies in
the Philippine telecommunications industry whose greed for profits have become
said and about time, considering that the oligopoly in the telecommunications
industry has been screwing the consuming public for decades. From its start as a
monopoly under the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), the
telecom industry has now been transformed to an oligopoly, with only three major
players: PLDT, Globe and BayanTel.
is Globe and PLDT subsidiary Smart, however, that have hogged cellular phone
services, with Smart eating up Piltel and Globe eating up Islacom.
telecom industry has always been a monopoly and a milking cow not only for its
owners but for top government officials who practice bureaucrat capitalism to
the hilt. The telecom monopolies count among the biggest contributors to the
political campaigns of presidents, senators and congressmen. This is true both
here and abroad.
fact, the global telecom industry has, side by side with the information
technology sector, emerged as the new wave for global monopoly capitalism. It
threatens to match the influence and wealth of the oil, energy and mining
monopolies that have traditionally dominated the world.
is in this sense that TxtPower’s battle takes on David-and-Goliath
proportions. How a motley crew of young people can engage giants like Smart and
Globe in the battlefield of public opinion and policy will be interesting.
more than the drama, it would be interesting to see if TxtPower can jumpstart
the lethargic, or perhaps non-existent consumer movement in the country.
scanning of so-called consumers’ unions in the country show that they function
more as PR agencies of producers or outright rackets rather than protectors of
the Filipino consumers. There are times, such as during the Pepsi 349 fiasco,
when consumer groups take center stage. But they tend to fizzle out after the
speaking, the fight against high oil prices and the deregulation of the oil
industry is a consumer issue, but it is the cause-oriented groups, transport
associations and labor unions that have taken up the issue by default, since no
consumers group takes up the cudgels against the oil monopolies.
is also interesting to note that TxtPower is powered by young, idealistic men
and women from the middle class. From a handful of concerned “texters,” the
group has now expanded, via text and e-mail, to a few hundred individuals and
still growing. These are the same forces which comprised the bulk of People
Power 2, and we know what that movement did to no less than the presidency.
Despite its initial victories against Globe and Smart, it would not be surprising for TxtPower to eventually lose its battle against the powerful telecom monopolies. But the greater victory would lie in the birth of a genuine consumers’ movement. This is the hope that TxtPower gives. Bulatlat.com