Senate oversight panel to be reconstituted

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    SENATE President Sotto III and Sen. Panfilo Lacson have filed a resolution seeking to reconstitute the Senate Oversight Committee on Intelligence and Confidential Funds, Programs, and Activities to exercise the Senate oversight function over the use, disbursement, and expenditures of confidential intelligence funds granted to certain government agencies, among others.

    Sotto and Lacson clarified the filing had nothing to do with a controversy hounding the Department of Information and Communications Technology on the alleged misuse of its intelligence funds by Secretary Gregorio Honasan, a former senator.

    The allegation came as Undersecretary Eliseo Rio resigned from the department. Rio, an undersecretary for operations, is opposing a P300-million budget for intelligence and confidential funds approved by the secretary, saying it is not in the DICT’s mandate to conduct intelligence activities.

    Sotto and Lacson said the oversight committee is needed “to enable the Senate to oversee the efficiency of concerned government institutions in the production of accurate and timely intelligence information to better deal with the threats to national security, including the maintenance of peace and order, thereby providing a safety environment and secure place of abode to the people.”

    The committee will have Lacson as chairman as he is the chairman of the Senate’s national defense panel.

    Lacson, in an interview with Senate reporters, said they will have to talk among themselves if there is a need to conduct a hearing on the controversy at the DICT which reportedly involved the transfer to Honasan’s office some P300 million intelligence funds.

    Lacson said it is better to conduct a hearing on the DICT issue so Honasan will be given a fair chance to air his side.

    Lacson and Honasan belong to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1971, and formed the so-called macho bloc with Sotto at the Senate.

    The DICT said the “confidential expense” allocated in the 2019 budget “was legitimately used for cybersecurity and the protection of our national security, with the safety of our government’s information facilities and institutions, and the welfare of our people, being the Department’s utmost priority.”

    It said it was issuing a “in response to various news articles which may have inaccurately misled the public on the disbursement” of P300 million from the “confidential expenses, a line item allocated to the Department under the General Appropriations Act.”

    It said the confidential expense item “is for lawful monitoring and surveillance of systems and networks to support the DICT’s functions, which include cybersecurity, the formulation and effective implementation of the National Cybersecurity Plan, and international cooperation on intelligence on cybersecurity matters.”

    It said a key component of cybersecurity is “information gathering on our ICT systems, and aiding the government agencies involved in law enforcement and the defense of our nation and its people.”

    “As a member of the National Security Council, the DICT is mandated to protect the nation’s critical infostructures, its government networks both civilian and military, its small-medium enterprises to large businesses, the corporations and its supply chains, and every Filipino citizen using the internet.”