Lawmakers called for an investigation on the P300-million confidential funds of the Department of Information and Communications Technology led by Secretary Gregorio Honasan after Undersecretary Eliseo Rio raised the issue last month.
Members of the House minority bloc filed House Resolution 702 directing the House committee on good government and public accountability to conduct an investigation on reports that DICT advanced P100 million each on Nov. 22, Dec. 2 and Dec. 17 as confidential funds for surveillance.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said, however, said the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission could conduct its own investigation on the issue.
Senate Majority Floor leader Juan Miguel Zubir called for inquiry not only on allegations on the misuse of funds but also on DICT’s alleged acceptance of billions of pesos in so-called intel funds.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier pushed for Senate Resolution 310 to create an oversight panel to investigate the intelligence fund allocation of government agencies, including the DICT.
The DICT defended the use of intel funds, saying it would urgently address the cybersecurity problems and protect national security through the National Cybersecurity Plan 2020.
An immediate cybersecurity concern is the alleged threat that DITO Telecommunity’s partnership with China state-owned China Telecom poses.
Several legislators expressed concern about ChinaTel’s ability to violate the national security of the Philippines. Senator Francis Pangilinan said, “China’s National Intelligence Law states that any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with State Intelligence work in accordance with the law.”
ChinaTel, for one, is potentially in a position to execute a breach of security―national and personal in the Philippines, lawmakers warned.
Rio, in introducing the NCP 2020, said that DICT would provide a roadmap for ICT stakeholders to secure their online environment.”
Rio said, “there is no physical or economic security without cybersecurity and the government is at the forefront of protecting every Filipino in cyberspace.”
Rio, who resigned last week, said that of the P300-million intel funds disbursed, DICT has no use for it nor the mandate to conduct surveillance or intelligence activities.
He said DICT’s role is clear in specifically strengthening the critical infrastructure for resiliency and using security measures among businesses to protect, prevent, respond and recover from cyber-attacks.