Confidential funds for DICT
The proffered resignation has not yet been accepted, but the reason given has drawn the attention of at least one anti-graft agency. The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission is reportedly set to look into questions raised by Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. on the utilization of P300 million in funds of the Department of Information and Communications Technology or DICT as “confidential funds,” which has reportedly drawn the attention of the Commission on Audit.
Rio, an electrical engineer and retired Army brigadier general, served as acting secretary of the DICT until Gregorio Honasan was named to the post. Honasan’s appointment was controversial from the start. Certain legal quarters pointed out that the law creating the DICT was enacted when he was still a senator, and lawmakers are not supposed to become beneficiaries of legislation passed under their watch.
Now Rio is saying that the DICT ran out of its regular operating funds late last year, with about P300 million ending up as confidential funds. As undersecretary for operations, he has been kept out of the loop particularly in intelligence and surveillance activities that are not part of the DICT mandate, he said.
Rio noted that Honasan obtained approval for P400 million in confidential funds for the DICT in 2019, plus P803 million in “confidential, intelligence and extraordinary expenses” for the department for 2020. The department does not need such funds, Rio stressed.
President Duterte has said he would not tolerate even “a whiff” of corruption in his administration. Now a ranking official of the DICT has come out in the open to question the propriety of public fund utilization by a Cabinet member. There are still several unresolved corruption accusations involving officials and allies of this administration, from the Department of Tourism to the Bureau of Customs. Rio appears ready to talk and he deserves to be heard.