House legislators also call for DICT P300M fund probe

THE MAKABAYAN bloc in the House of Representatives, with support from the members of the minority, has filed a resolution seeking to investigate the alleged misuse of P300 million in confidential funds in the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). The allegation was made by former DICT undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr., who recently resigned over the issue. The Senate is also planning to hold an inquiry. “We have received reports that these anomalous funds were used for surveillance. The question is who were put under surveillance? Were the opposition and other critics been put under surveillance? Is this part of the National Task Force- End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to monitor and suppress the opposition? Is that even part of the mandate of the DICT? This should definitely have to be probed and Congress’ oversight powers should be exercised to investigate this,” Bayan Muna Party List Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate said in a press conference on Thursday, streamed on Facebook. The filed House Resolution 702 cites that “the cybersecurity office of the DICT is not created for surveillance of civilians; it was created instead to secure the nation’s cyber space from cyber threats.” It also said, “The conduct of surveillance and intelligence activities is nowhere to be found in the DICT charter, which questions the use of P400 million of the confidential funds allocated on the agency for Fiscal Year 2019.” Mr. Zarate also called on the House leadership to immediately pass House Bill 6184, which seeks to create the Congressional Oversight Committee on the national budget. A Commission on Audit observation memorandum dated Jan. 20 said the DICT advanced P300 million in cash for confidential expenses on three occasions — P100 million each on Nov. 22, Dec. 2 and Dec. 17 last year. These were made in the name of current DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan III, who also requested the funds, which were to be used for “confidential expenses in connection with cybersecurity activities.” — Genshen L. Espedido

Medialdea to head National Quincentennial Committee

Salvador C. Medialdea

EXECUTIVE SECRETARY Salvador C. Medialdea will lead the committee for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world, in which the Philippines was one of the stops. Under Executive Order No. 103 dated Jan. 28, President Rodrigo R. Duterte directed the reconstitution of the National Quincentennial Committee, which will be in charge of all government initiatives for the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines (2021 QCP). The 2021 QCP aims to promote nationalism and tourism. Among the historical events that will be commemorated is Ferdinand Magellan’s arrival in the Philippine islands and the victory of Lapu-Lapu in the battle of Mactan. The head of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) will be the committee’s vice chair. — Gillian M. Cortez