The Philippine Star

DICT urged: No per­mits for telco tow­ers in camps

- By JESS DIAZ Presidential Debates · Department of Information · Cagayan de Oro · Cagayan · Philippines · Armed Forces of the Philippines · Armed Forces of the Philippines · Gregorio Honasan · Congress of the United States · China · Makati · National Telecommunications Commission · Smart Communications · Globe Telecom · Ralph Recto · Delfin Lorenzana

The Depart­ment of In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Tech­nol­ogy (DICT) should not is­sue per­mits for the trans­mis­sion tow­ers of the third telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany (telco) if these would be in­side mil­i­tary camps, Ca­gayan de Oro City Rep. Ru­fus Ro­driguez said yes­ter­day.

“They can­not al­low these tow­ers and other as­sets to be built in­side camps of the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP) be­cause that will vi­o­late the Con­sti­tu­tion,” said Ro­driguez, a former law dean.

DICT Sec­re­tary Gre­go­rio Honasan, he added, has noted dur­ing bud­get de­bates in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives that the agree­ment be­tween the AFP and third telco Dito Tele­com would run against the Char­ter.

Ro­driguez cited Ar­ti­cle 2, Sec­tion 3 of the coun­try’s ba­sic law, which pro­vides that the AFP “is the pro­tec­tor of the peo­ple and the state.”

“The goal of the mil­i­tary is to se­cure the sovereignt­y of the state and the in­tegrity of the na­tional ter­ri­tory. The deal al­low­ing Dito Tele­com to es­tab­lish its fa­cil­i­ties in­side mil­i­tary camps will vi­o­late our na­tional se­cu­rity and en­dan­ger our sovereignt­y. It is there­fore un­con­sti­tu­tional and should not be al­lowed,” he said.

Dur­ing the re­cent House de­bates on the pro­posed P5.2-bil­lion DICT bud­get for next year, Honasan agreed with Ro­driguez that lo­cat­ing 40 per­cent of the tow­ers of the China-owned Dito Tele­com in­side AFP camps would go against the Con­sti­tu­tion. How­ever, there was no ex­plicit state­ment from Honasan that he would bar the con­struc­tion of tow­ers and other fa­cil­i­ties in mil­i­tary camps.

“You, of all peo­ple, be­ing a former Army colonel, un­der­stand the dan­ger to our na­tional se­cu­rity of hav­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions fa­cil­i­ties partly owned by for­eign­ers, in this case, the Chi­nese, in­side AFP camps,” Ro­driguez, told Honasan, who nod­ded his head.

Makati Rep. Luis Cam­pos Jr., who de­fended the DICT bud­get, as­sured his col­league from Ca­gayan de Oro City that his con­cerns on pos­si­ble con­sti­tu­tional vi­o­la­tion and on na­tional se­cu­rity would be ad­e­quately ad­dressed.

“There will not be a breach of se­cu­rity as long as the DICT and the Na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion are watch­ing over this (deal),” Cam­pos said.

Aside from Ro­driguez, some se­na­tors have ex­pressed con­cern over the im­pli­ca­tions of the AFP-Dito deal.

Dito Tele­com is the third gov­ern­men­tac­cred­ited telco that would com­pete with in­dus­try gi­ants Philip­pine Long Dis­tance Tele­phone Co.-Smart Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Globe Tele­com to pro­vide the pub­lic with faster mo­bile phone and in­ter­net ser­vices.

Ear­lier, pres­i­den­tial spokesman Sal­vador Panelo said he re­ceived a text mes­sage from De­fense Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana that the lat­ter was not aware of the AFPDito agree­ment signed by chief of staff Gen. Ben­jamin Madri­gal.

Loren­zana later said he was out of the coun­try on of­fi­cial busi­ness.

He said he in­quired from Madri­gal and was told that the agree­ment was on its way to his of­fice, and that he would scru­ti­nize it be­fore tak­ing any ac­tion.

His state­ment did not sit well with Sen. Ralph Recto, who said, “If this deal can fly stealth­ily un­der the nose of the man re­spon­si­ble for our na­tion’s de­fense, then it raises anew the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of our borders from in­trud­ers.”

Recto said the pos­si­ble se­cu­rity im­pli­ca­tions at­tached to the deal should have been cleared first at the high­est level.

“The con­cern that these could morph into em­bed­ded lis­ten­ing de­vices, and that the pro­ject is like let­ting an elec­tronic Tro­jan horse into our camps, should have been sub­jected to third party ex­pert study,” he added.

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