Press Release
April 30, 2009

Enrile pushes enactment of anti-trust bill
that will penalize unfair trade practices

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile submitted for floor deliberations today the committee report on the proposed anti-trust law that will discipline the country's market system by penalizing unfair trade and anti-competitive practices and thereby protect consumers from abuse.

In his sponsorship speech, Enrile said Senate Bill no. 3197 also known as "The Competition Act of 2009" will define and prohibit business cartels, monopolies, monopoly power or abuse of market power through price fixing and price discrimination, bid rigging, limitation and control of markets, agreement to limit and or control markets, and tie-in arrangements.

The bill will impose stringent penalties against traders who will engage in unethical business practices. The bill authorizes the Department of Justice to be the chief enforcer of the measure, he added. It further provides the penalty of a fine of not less than P1,000,000.00 and not exceeding P10,000,000.00 for persons who shall violate any of the prohibited acts prescribed under the law, or a fine of not less than P10,000,000.00 and not exceeding P100,000,000.00, in case of firms which shall violate any of the prohibited acts, or an imprisonment not exceeding ten years, or both.

"Our Constitution already prohibits monopolies, any combination in restraint of trade, and unfair competition under Article XII, Section 19. Furthermore, previous Congresses have already passed vital pieces of legislation pursuant to this Constitutional mandate," Enrile said in his sponsorship speech.

"These laws not only mandate government agencies to regulate and oversee the operations of certain industries or sub-sector of industries while, at the same time, ensuring that competition among industry players are maintained for the benefit of the consumers and end-users of their services," he added.

But the Senate President explained that despite the existence of laws that aim to foster competition in the industries, they proved to be inadequate to stop the detriments of anti-competitive structures and behavior in the market. "Moreover, while there are special laws which have provisions that encourage competition, it is a fact that not one corporation was ever prosecuted for anti-trust acts," he said.

"We need to enact an anti-trust measure. In fact, the adoption of a competition policy has been included in the Medium-Term Development Plan for 2004 - 2010 to create a competitive environment not only to ensure efficiency among big business firms and corporations," Enrile further said. "More importantly, we need to foster an environment that is conducive for the development of micro, small and medium enterprises."

Enrile said he filed the bill mainly to provide protection to consumers against price manipulators, especially during the volatile economic situation that the country is experiencing.

"Business is constantly evolving. While the sophistication and technological innovations with which private firms run their companies have augured well for growth in their operations and profits, the advantages of real competition, such as lower prices of goods, wider array of choices, more efficient delivery of services, etc., seem to remain mere ideals in the point of view of the consuming public," Enrile said. "Evidently, the free market landscape still necessitates a corresponding legislation that would effectively protect the interests of the public from unscrupulous business practices of firms in the market."

The bill was originally filed by Enrile in June 2007 during the 14th Congress and was reintroduced in the present Congress. Similar measures were also filed by Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Antonio Trillanes and were incorporated in the committee report. The trade and commerce committee is headed by Sen. Mar Roxas who tasked Enrile to chair the subcommittee that consolidated the anti-trust bills.

To prevent abuse by the authorities, Enrile said the bill provides that its implementation shall be without prejudice to the rights, liabilities and remedies under which a person or firm may be entitled to under Republic Act No. 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code. However, the exercise of intellectual property rights shall not be in any way be used to justify violations of the proposed measure, Enrile added.

In an earlier news forum, Enrile said the anti-trust bill would cover not only oil companies but also pharmaceutical, cement, food products and other industries as well where there is possible collusion among traders. "The penalties (for unethical business practices) are very heavy. It's not a joke. If you are charged and found guilty of monopolization or attempt to monopolize, or if you are engaged in conspiracy or agreement to manipulate prices, under this law that I drafted, you can suffer a heavy fine including imprisonment," Enrile said.

The Senate President said that the proposed law was patterned after anti-trust laws in the United States and in some European countries, the purpose of which is to foster sound business ethics that would protect the ordinary consumers.

He added that the law would provide mechanisms through which traders found guilty of the malpractice would pay back what they have unfairly acquired. This is apart from heavy fines that may be imposed against them, Enrile said.

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