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Senators say they won’t tread lightly in possible probe of Honasan-led DICT’s intel funds

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Gregorio Honasan will not be treated with kid gloves by his former Senate colleagues in the event that the chamber probes DICT’s use of P300 million in intelligence funds spent during the last three months of 2019, senators said Wednesday.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senator Panfilo Lacson made the comments a day after Sotto and Lacson filed Senate Resolution 310, which establishes the Senate Select Oversight Committee on Intelligence and Confidential Funds.

This Resolution was filed in the aftermath of the resignation of ex- DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio last week after he complained that Honasan kept him in the dark on how P300 million in the department’s confidential funds was used in the last months of 2019. Rio argued that as Undersecretary for DICT operations, he had the right to know the proceeds of the DICT’s intel fund.

“We will take everything straight up. This is in aid of legislation. Ang inquiry ay para malaman kung merong dapat baguhin sa system. Hindi lang sa DICT but everything that involves confidential funds,” Sotto told reporters.

“This will always be a public hearing, not in executive session para walang masabi,” he added.

Zubiri, for his part, said he is confident that Honasan will not hold it against them if he is probed.

“No one is above the law. Malapit sa amin si Senator Honasan, pero if there is such an accusation, what we can do is to fast-track the approval of this [special oversight] committee para sa ganoon ay mabigyan siya ng venue para masagot ang mga katanungan; kung meron mang mismanagement or misuse of funds,” Zubiri said in a separate interview.

He added that many of them were surprised by Rio's allegations.

“Maraming nagulat kasi marami sa amin naniniwala na he is a man of integrity. That is why dapat malaman natin kung ano nangyari sa intelligence funds. Baka naman ginamit talaga sa intelligence gathering baka naman, o shinare ni Senator Honasan sa ibang ahensya ng gobyerno like the NICA. We’ll see,” Zubiri added.

NICA is the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Lacson, on the other hand, said that Honasan is fine with his former colleagues' investigating him.

“Alam niya iyon [na puede siya imbestigahan]. Maganda [nga iyon], sabi niya,” Lacson said.

“Tama rin in a way si Usec. Rio pero DICT is at the frontline of determining cyber attacks, in our conversation, fino-forward nila yung [report on] possible cyber attacks sa mga agencies, so kailangan rin nila ng confidential fund, so kailangang ma-crystallize o clarify [ang mga isyu],” Lacson, a former police chief, added.

A January 20 Commission on Audit audit observation memo (AOM) has shown that the DICT disbursed a total of P300 million in the form of three cash advances of P100 million each on November 8, December 3 and December 17 all in year 2019 intended for confidential expenses without securing a notice of cash allocation (NCA) from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The NCA is a disbursement authority issued by DBM to central, regional and provincial offices and operating units to cover cash requirements of the agencies prior to the processing and release of cash advance. — BM, GMA News