Duterte to let Senate probe confidential fund for DICT
MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte will leave the fate of the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) controversial disbursement of intelligence and confidential funds to the Senate, Malacañang said Friday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte would first let the Senate conduct its investigation into the confidential funds appropriated to the DICT before ordering a possible presidential probe.
“He (Duterte) will observe the Senate hearing on its investigation to (resigned DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr.’s) allegations,” Panelo said in a text message.
The DICT received confidential funds worth PHP400 million and PHP800 million in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson, close friends of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II, have filed a resolution seeking an inquiry into the use of intelligence and confidential funds allocated to several government agencies, including DICT.
In an Audit ObservaMANILA
tion Memorandum dated January 20, the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the agency’s supposedly irregular release of PHP100 million each on November 8, December 3, and December 17 last year as “cash advance for confidential expenses in connection with cybersecurity activities.”
The COA also noted that the funds were released without the required notice of cash allotment from the budget department.
The state audit agency’s findings were followed by Rio’s resignation on January 31, who quit due to his apparent tiff with new DICT officials and questioned the grant of the agency’s intelligence and confidential funds.
Panelo said the President has yet to act on Rio’s resignation.
He added that Duterte also expressed openness to hearing the resigned DICT official’s sentiments.
“As to Rio, his (Duterte’s) office has received the resignation letter but he has not read it,” Panelo said. “As to the allegations of Rio, he will listen to him when they meet but (there is) no schedule yet.”
In a joint statement on Friday, Honasan and Rio agreed to settle their differences to remove any doubts the people may have over the confidential funds disbursed to DICT.
The two also acknowledged that Rio’s “personal” stance may have been “misinterpreted”.
“We again assure the public that the Confidential Expense was legitimately used for our country’s cybersecurity and the protection of our national security,” Honasan and Rio said.
“Rest assured that proper procedures were followed, and the disbursements were regular, and duly liquidated in accordance with applicable accounting and auditing laws, rules, and regulations,” they added.