The Philippine Star
DICT urged: No permits for telco towers in camps
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.