SEN. Aquilino Pimentel III has sought to declare as persona non grata Angeline Xiwen Tham, founder and chief executive officer of motorcycle taxi Angkas, for violating the country’s ownership law and for allegedly bullying the government.
Pimentel, chairman of the Senate trade, commerce, and entrepreneurship committee, has filed Senate Resolution Number 287 urging the appropriate committee to conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, into the “high-handed arrogant and irresponsible acts of Angeline Xiam Tham for the purpose of reviewing our current laws” to discourage other business owners from following her act.
Pimentel said Tham, a Singaporean, owns P9.8 million in subscribed shares or 99.996 percent of Angkas as recorded in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
This, he claimed, was a clear violation of existing laws allowing foreigners to own only up to 60 percent of businesses in the country.
Pimentel said Tham and Angkas officials tried to circumvent the law by announcing on January 8 that it had divided the shares to its six owners, with Chief Transport Advocate George Royeca getting majority 60 percent of the company.
The Department of Transportation’s technical working group (DOTr-TWG) had said the move was a “blatant display of defiance and arrogance.”
Pimentel noted that as early as 2016, Tham’s company embarked on the business of motorcycle taxis despite knowing that motorcycles cannot be used for the purpose under existing Philippine laws.
“The said company even made it appear in its Articles of Incorporation filed with the SEC that it will not operate as a public utility, thereby misleading the appropriate government offices,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel likewise alleged that Angkas “bullied” the government when its members staged mass indignation rides last December meant to paralyze traffic in Metro Manila to show their opposition to the riders cap imposed by authorities during the extended pilot run for motorcycles as public utility vehicles.
“(Angkas) embarked on a social media campaign designed to shame and bully government agencies who merely implemented the law,” he said.
He said Angkas took to social media to air its grievance, giving the public the impression that thousands of its bikers will lose their job due to the planned cap.
Pimentel said Angkas deliberately made its move despite an announcement from the DOTr-TWG that “displaced Angkas riders may choose to be assimilated by the other motorcycle hailing apps.”
“Angkas riders, with the tacit approval of Angeline Xiwen Tham, have threatened to merely continue with their illegal acts and remain colorum motorcycle taxis, if the alleged plan to displace 17,000 riders would be pursued by government,” he claimed.
On top of this, Pimentel also said Angkas protested the inclusion of two more motorcycle taxi companies by staging another indignation ride which was also meant to paralyze traffic in the metropolis.
It can be recalled that Pimentel had earlier endorsed to the DOTr the inclusion of the JoyRide motorcycle taxi firm in the pilot test run for motorcycle-for-hires.
Pimentel said the “foregoing blatant transgressions of our laws, misleading and bullying behavior targeting Philippine officials” could have been done with the “explicit complicity” of Tham.
“Tham is merely a guest of our country, yet she is already acting like an oligarch which she seems hell-bent on becoming at our expense. Her acts deriding our sovereign laws are high-handed, arrogant and irresponsible, which should not be countenanced but condemned to the fullest,” Pimentel said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said it is up to President Duterte and the Department of Foreign Affairs whether or not to formally declare Tham as persona non grata.
Guevarra, though, said the executive department will give Pimentel’s resolution “the utmost respect and consideration” to a co-equal branch of government.
“A legislative resolution, in general, merely expresses a sentiment and is usually intended to influence executive action. In the case of a resolution seeking to declare an alien as persona non grata, it is the President or the DFA who has the sole authorities to make such declaration,” Guevarra said.
“As I said, the executive department will give much weight to the Senate resolution, once approved,” he added.
He explained that before an alien can be declared persona non grata, there must be a formal declaration first by the President or the DFA, though he added, under our immigration laws, any alien may be barred entry by the Bureau of Immigrations other than being declared persona non grata. – With Ashzel Hachero