PCC, Ombudsman join forces vs cartels

By Richmond Mercurio

MANILA, Philippines -  The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has forged an alliance with the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) to enforce a solid campaign against bid rigging, price fixing and cartels in government procurements and projects.

“A unified front in levelling the playing field, both in government and commercial transactions, will ultimately benefit consumers and the general public,” PCC chairman Arsenio Balisacan said.

The PCC is mandated to prohibit anti-competitive conduct and impose administrative penalties on violators while the Ombudsman has jurisdiction over corruption cases involving high-level government officials.

“The PCC is like an ombudsman of the market. We go after cartels, bid manipulators, price fixers, etc. – cases that may also potentially involve criminal offenses such as bribery, graft and corruption, over which the OMB has jurisdiction,” PCC commissioner El Cid Butuyan said.

Butuyan said the PCC and the OMB partnership will boost the detection, investigation and prosecution of the anti-competitive conducts.

“There are significant synergies and complementarity of the two agencies in pursuing a shared mandate to detect and penalize misconduct. We expect this partnership between the OMB and the PCC to provide a big boost in promoting integrity both in the public and corporate sectors,” he said.

Some channels where anti-corruption efforts converge with anti-trust enforcement include bid-rigging cases punishable under Section 14 of the Philippine Competition Act.

The PCC said it will look into cases where market leaders bag large scale transactions while government officials receive payoffs by providing cover for anti-competitive conduct.

Bid rigging, according to the antitrust authority, as an anti-competitive conduct has penalties ranging from P100 million to P250 million, as well as criminal penalties of imprisonment from two to seven years and a fine ranging from P50 million to P250 million.

“On a personal level, I am very pleased that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has demonstrated strong commitment for this mutual initiative. She brought on board senior members of the OMB leadership to ensure the effective investigation and resolution of cases,” Butuyan said.

The PCC said its collaboration with the OMB is part of its vigorous enforcement of the landmark Philippine Competition Act through partnerships, parallel efforts, joint task forces and coordinated actions with partner agencies, both locally and abroad.

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