Palace surprised with Rio’s claims on StaySafe.ph; assures users’ protection
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is surprised with the statements of former Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary Eliseo Rio, who earlier claimed he was “eased out” of his post after pointing out the limitations of government-backed contact tracing app StaySafe.ph.
According to Palace spokesman Harry Roque, he contacted Rio after President Rodrigo Duterte accepted his resignation and claimed that the erstwhile Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) official did not express any sign of displeasure.
“Medyo nasorpresa din po ako sa kanyang declaration dahil I distinctly remember na sabi niya talagang gusto na rin niyang magpahinga and besides ‘yung kanyang resignation po was really tendered to the President and therefore it is up to the President to accept it or not,” Roque said in a televised press briefing in Malacañang Tuesday.
(I was a bit surprised by his declaration because I distinctly remember that he said he really wanted to rest and besides, his resignation was really tendered to the President and therefore it is up to the President to accept it or not.)
Rio broke his silence in a social media post on Sunday, over two weeks since Duterte accepted his resignation.
He cited weaknesses in StaySafe.ph’s privacy protocols and its ability to do contact tracing—an essential function in isolating cases to stop the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Rio also said that COVID-19 response chief implementor Carlito Galvez Jr. had proposed to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to form an Information System Task Group that would assess COVID-19 contact tracing apps, among other things. The proposed task group would have been headed by Rio.
But Rio said the IATF scrapped Galvez’s proposal.
“Not only was this proposal of Secretary Galvez disregarded by IATF, I was eased out from the government at this crucial time with the President accepting my four-month-old resignation,” Rio said.
Rio, who led the country’s search for a third telecommunications player, offered his resignation in February citing conflicting views with other officials in the DICT, including the confidential funds lodged with the agency’s budget.
Roque, however, assured that data privacy is protected in the use of StaySafe.ph app, which currently has a million users.
“Well, meron pong sapat na safeguards dahil ‘yung pong ating Cyberlibel Law will be the ultimate protection for the people. So kapag ginamit po ‘yan for espionage pwede po ‘yan maging basehan for criminal prosecution,” Roque said.
(Well there are enough safeguards because our Cyberlibel Law will be the ultimate protection for the people. So when it is used for espionage it can be the basis for criminal prosecution.)
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