Top DICT execs bury hatchet for now | Inquirer News

Top DICT execs bury hatchet for now

/ 04:20 AM February 08, 2020

A rift between top officials of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), which over the past week exposed the shadowy use of confidential funds late last year, appeared to have been resolved at the request of President Rodrigo Duterte.

On Friday, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II and Undersecretary for operations Eliseo Rio Jr. issued a joint statement to clear “inconsistencies that may have surfaced in these past few days.”

Duterte’s request

Rio offered to resign on Jan. 31 over conflict with new DICT appointees and the lack of transparency in the department. He also questioned the need for a confidential fund, which is typically used for covert activities or programs to evade public scrutiny.


Rio told the Inquirer in an interview on Friday that he spoke with Executive Secretary (ES) Salvador Medialdea, who relayed Mr. Duterte’s request for reconciliation.


“ES said the President requests that we first settle our differences in the department,” said Rio, a retired brigadier general and former chief at the DICT. “So we came up with a statement saying we respect each other’s position on the matter.”

The statement, the second released by the DICT, came in the wake of concerns that hundreds of millions of pesos over three weeks from November to December last year were used for surveillance activities which are outside the mandate of the department.

The joint statement from the two former military officers noted that the spending of confidential funds were used for the “lawful monitoring and surveillance of systems and network infrastructure only.”

“It is not used for the monitoring of individuals and persons since that is not part of the department’s mandate,” the statement added.


Commission on Audit (COA) documents seen by the Inquirer showed that P300 million of the P400-million 2019 budget lodged under confidential, intelligence and extraordinary expenses were disbursed by the DICT. COA auditors also cited irregularities in the manner and timing by which the transactions were processed.

The DICT is the main planning body to improve public access, promote consumer protection and industry development as well as formulating the country’s cybersecurity policy.In its statement, the DICT gave no further details on how the money was spent. It said the country’s information systems and networks needed continuous monitoring to protect against domestic and foreign cyberattacks.


“The returns of the confidential fund investment will soon be felt by our people because it will move us even closer towards a cybersafe Philippines,” the DICT said.

The capabilities described by the DICT, however, mirror those by the P512-million Cybersecurity Management System Project, which was awarded in 2018 to a venture between Filipino company Integrated Computer Systems Inc. and Israel’s Verint System Ltd., a supplier of intelligence solutions.

The project, which has yet to be paid for by the Philippine government, is currently operational and has been linked to 10 “priority” agencies, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

These are the Office of the President, Department of Finance, Department of Energy, Department of Foreign Affairs, National Security Council, Department of Budget and Management, Presidential Communications Operations Office, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Department of National Defense, and the DICT.

Rio said the DICT’s new cybersecurity spending could complement the Cybersecurity Management System Project although he did not elaborate since he was not privy to how the confidential fund was used.

Show outcomes

He noted that the DICT still needed to show the outcomes or results of the expenses.

With the issue seemingly cleared, Rio said that he was still not withdrawing his resignation, which has yet to be signed by Mr. Duterte.

“I will wait for the President’s decision. But if anything in our joint statement does not push through, then I will make it an irrevocable resignation,” Rio said.

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For now, Rio is expected to keep his post in the DICT.

TAGS: DICT, DICT fund, Honasan, Rio

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