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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Pres. Duterte Open To Meeting Rio Over DICT Confidential Fund

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President Rodrigo Duterte is open to meeting resigned Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to discuss the department’s supposedly questionable use of confidential funds, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.

Rio, who led the government’s search for a third telecommunications provider, can reach the President to air grievances against the disbursement of PHP300 million in the DICT’s confidential funds, Nograles told Palace reporters.

“The President is open to meeting anybody. He always said that if anybody has a complaint, Malacañang is always open to anybody who has grievances,” Nograles said.

“I’m sure since Usec. Rio naman was part of the executive branch before, I’m sure he knows how to reach the President. So if he needs to see the President, I’m sure he knows what to do,” he added.

In a letter dated Jan. 31, Rio informed the President of his decision to quit his post at the DICT.

Duterte, however, has yet to act on Rio’s resignation.

Rio, according to reports, resigned due to supposed conflict with the agency’s new appointees.

The resigned DICT official also questioned the grant and questionable allocation of confidential funds of the DICT.

The DICT had PHP400 million in confidential funds in 2019 and PHP800 million in 2020.

The Commission on Audit (COA), in its Audit Observation Memorandum dated Jan. 20, flagged the DICT’s irregular release of funds in three tranches worth PHP100 million each on Nov. 8, Dec. 3, and Dec. 17 last year as “cash advance for confidential expenses in connection with cybersecurity activities.”

The COA said the funds were released sans the required notice of cash allotment from the Department of Budget and Management.

Nograles said the existence of the DICT’s confidential funds was not raised during the 46th Cabinet meeting held at Malacañan Palace on Tuesday night, since it was “not part of the agenda.”

He added that he was not privy as to whether the President and DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan II had a private talk about the issue.

“I don’t know if nag-usap ba sila (if they talked) about that privately,” Nograles said, when quizzed if he was aware of the possible discussion of the issue between Duterte and Honasan during the Cabinet meeting.

“He (Duterte) shook hands with Secretary Honasan and they exchanged pleasantries, from my observation. But I don’t know if there was extensive discussion about what was being said right now in media about certain allegations,” he added.

Nograles, however, said the issues plaguing the DICT can be investigated by both the executive and legislative branches of the government.

On Tuesday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson said they filed a Senate resolution, seeking an investigation into the disbursement of intelligence funds of various government agencies, including the DICT headed by their friend Honasan. (PNA)

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