Papal Visit Philippines 2015 Special: Justified or Overboard? Smart and Globe Disrupt Mobile Services During the Pope’s Visit

This is a post, part of a series, to commemorate the Pope’s visit to the Philippines on January 15-19 2015.


Smart Communications (TEL:PM latest stock quote) and Globe Telecom (GLO:PM latest stock quote), the two largest telecommunications company in the Philippines, plan to disrupt mobile services during the Pope’s stay in the Philippines from January 15-19 2015.

On the morning of January 16, I personally experienced disruption of my Smart Bro mobile internet. People I know also experienced disruptions with their Smart (and Sun) mobile signals. I didn’t experience any disruptions with my Globe cellular signal during the same time period. By the way, I was located far away from the Papal activities.

According to news reports, the two companies plan to disrupt services based on the directive of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). The NTC, as its name suggests, is the government agency that oversees telecom companies in the Philippines. The reason given is to secure the Pope, as mobile signals may be used to detonate bombs.

Do you actually think that this action is justified or is the government going overboard? Many people all over the world are very much dependent on mobile communications — and this is not because of the need to do selfies or Facebook updates —  many people actually depend on mobile services for their livelihood and daily activities. In the hospital, we communicate with the nursing and physician staff primarily through cellphones. In medical emergencies, you certainly would not want your doctor to be incontactable because of disrupted cellular signals.

If a security threat actually does materialize during the Pope’s visit, mobile communication is the best way by which police and emergency personnel can be called to respond. Disrupted mobile signals will be catastrophic in that scenario.

The ability of the government to order disruption of mobile signals, and the telco’s easy compliance with the order, may set a bad precedent. What if the reason for future disruptions is not public safety, but the curtailment of the freedoms of speech and association? — as what Mubarak allegedly did during the Egyptian uprising.

The same issue was raised in the United States after the Boston Marathon bombing.

Can the government shut down phone networks in a crisis?

If this is the security strategy of the Philippine government in ensuring the Pope’s safety, imagine what the strategy will be when the country hosts more heads of state in the upcoming APEC Summit.

“No Signal” definitely sends the wrong signal to investors.



Published by

Finance, M.D.

Finance, M.D. is a practicing physician who dabbles in finance and investment. He has passed all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams, all in his first attempts.

One thought on “Papal Visit Philippines 2015 Special: Justified or Overboard? Smart and Globe Disrupt Mobile Services During the Pope’s Visit”

  1. As a doctor myself, I have been discussing the implications of these disruptions (not just telco, but main traffic routes!) in other forums – especially the importance of having access to these in an emergency situation – that is was NOT justified to have such disruptions for any dignitary visit – especially for five straight days.

    Guess what was the response – that it is all OK because it is for the pope’s visit, that is it obviously justified because majority of Filipinos want the pope safe, and that people like myself were being selfish and ‘not using their brain right’ for failing to think about the pope’s safety.

    Also, I do not see any news or media discussions about the negative and potentially disastrous implications of suspending communications services and road access for almost a week. All I see and hear are how well thought (and appropriate – it’s all for the pope!) the security measures are, and how well the papal visit is going.

    I think the responses I received are a clear indication of a sick and idiotic mindset here in this country. – utter lack of sensibilities and rational thinking. I wonder if these people will still be saying the same things if they or their loved ones were in an emergency situation and their lives depended on a mobile phone call or passing by a blocked highway.

    Yours is the first forum I read that actually pointed out the outrageousness of these security measures. Unfortunately we are in the minority – an overwhelming majority of Filipinos will go on to answer your question by saying ‘it’s all for the pope, so it is PERFECTLY justified’ – with an exclamatory ‘DUH?!?’ at the end of their sentence.


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