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Senate colleagues confident Honasan will make a good DICT secretary

Senators expressed confidence Friday that Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan II will make a good Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) secretary, although he was urged to ditch his old-model cellphone.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said although they will miss Honasan in the Senate, he knows that Honasan will be of great value to the executive department.

Senator Panfilo Lacson also admitted that he will miss Honasan for many reasons, including providing each other the quorum during committee hearings.

He, however, acknowledged that Honasan has a job to do.

“The DICT may be a young and small department in terms of personnel and budget but its role in national security and economic growth cannot be disregarded,” Lacson said in a text message to GMA News Online.

Lacson said nobody can dispute the fact that a country’s internet speed is directly proportional to its gross domestic product.

“I have no doubt that he has it in his consciousness when he takes over his job,” he said of Honasan.

He further said that Honasan discussed with him and Sotto the offer of President Rodrigo Duterte as early as six months ago.

“He even sought our opinion and advice on the matter. It was his for the asking but not without deference to Acting Sec (Eliseo) Rio who was our instructor in the (Philippine Military) Academy when we were still cadets,” he said in a separate text message.

'Jurassic' phone

Lacson said the very first advice he and Sotto gave to Honasan when he first confided to them the offer was to "ditch" and replace his "Jurassic" cell phone unit immediately to at least appear "techie."

Sotto earlier said Honasan still maintains his analog phone but clarified that the latter also has a smartphone.

Senator Grace Poe said she is confident that Honasan will do his utmost to be an effective DICT head.

“I have known him to be efficient, fastidious and dedicated. We need such at the helm of the DICT to insure that our country will continue to modernize and make technological advances that can support growth and development. Our telecommunications industry is crucial for our economy's competitiveness,” she said in a text message to GMA News Online.

Senator Joel Villanueva said he trusts Honasan's capability to lead the DICT as its new secretary.

“The Department needs a leader like Senator Greg who has consistently shown integrity and dedication to public service. We look forward to working with our fellow colleague soon to discuss plans and policies that will improve and promote our country's ICT agenda,” he said.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said, for many years, Filipinos, have perished from the slowest internet speed in Asia Pacific citing the 2017 report of Akamai, an internet speed measuring platform, that the Philippines has the slowest internet speed across the Asia Pacific at 5.5 mpbs.

“At hindi lang sobrang mabagal ang internet speed sa atin, sobrang mahal pa! It's time to crack the whip on the abuses by the telecom duopoly. Sen. Honasan is known as a passionate public servant and a disiplinarian,” he said in a text message.

“I am very confident that with his long experience in government, he will be able to tear down the regulatory capture in DICT and improve the quality and service of the telecom operators in our country,” Gatchalian added.

Senator Francis Escudero, meanwhile, congratulated Honasan adding that he will miss his kababayan in the Senate.

Escudero and Honasan both come from the Bicol Region.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also wished Honasan good luck in his new assignment.

Senate Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto expressed confidence that “Greg can do it” as he described his colleague as “a silent workhorse in a chamber of showhorses” or someone who has always been pushing for good policies and not working just for good publicity.

Recto said he was the principal author of the law creating the DICT, the modernization of PAGASA and installation of free WiFi, and he can attest that while Honasan gave valuable inputs, the latter did not give a hoot at being credited for his contributions. 

“For him, substance need not create splash,” he said of Honasan.

He added that Honasan takes the helm of an agency whose policies affect every Filipino who has a cellphone in his pocket and a social media account in his name.

“This is so because broadband is now the third utility, after water and power. It needs to be improved because every 10 percentage points increase in broadband penetration is said to boost the GDP by one percent,” he said.

Recto said Honasan’s marching order is in the DICT law and this entails giving Filipinos access to quality, affordable, reliable ICT service, or in simple consumer language service without dropped calls, dead spots, disappearing signals and slow Internet speed.

He said the immediate challenge before Honasan is to assure the public, the Senate included, that the third telco will not compromise national security and will be able to meet its rollout schedule and service deliverables on time.

“Many of the problems we confront today -- from traffic to illiteracy to health care -- have ICT solutions, which can ease the pain they cause or make them totally go away. Another area of concern is our nation’s defense against cyber attacks because an enemy with a missile is as dangerous as one with malware,” he said.

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV is looking forward to working with Honasan to strengthen the ICT sector in the Philippines and improve access to quality and affordable internet services for more Filipinos.

“As chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, we hope to get Sen. Honasan’s support in enabling more internet service providers and players in the industry, the upgrading of laws for our digital age, and in ensuring the effective implementation of the free Internet in public places law,” he said in a press statement. — KBK/BAP, GMA News