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Villanueva, Ejercito want confidential funds for DICT reinstated

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva and Senator JV Ejercito on Wednesday said they will seek the return of confidential funds for the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

“I would fight for DICT confidential funds. After the executive session with DICT officials for hours, I am convinced that we need to empower our cybersecurity measures. Rampant din ang cybercrimes. So that’s [a] no brainer for me,” Villanueva told reporters in a Viber message.

He also expressed confidence that he will be able to rally his colleagues in allocating the DICT the funding that they need, specifically the budget to fight cybercrimes and cyberattacks.

The DICT has P300 million confidential funds under the proposed 2024 budget.

However, the House of Representatives recently removed P1.23 billion worth of confidential funds from five agencies including the DICT.

The DICT earlier said that the removal of confidential funds for next year would reduce the agency’s capability to address cybersecurity threats.

“Our confidential funds to launch investigations, intelligence gathering, and threat analysis had been reduced to zero. It will really cut our capability of addressing all these cyber crimes and cyber threats,” said DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy in a CNN Philippines interview.

Reiterating that “cybercrime is the new enemy of society,” Senator JV Ejercito said agencies such as the DICT and the NBI anti-cybercrime unit need to have confidential and intelligence funds.

“[T]his also pertains to national security and cybercrime which victimizes thousands everyday specially the more vulnerable in the society…My position is that confidential and intelligence funds are better left with departments or agencies that has something to do with national security and fight against criminality,” he said in a separate Viber message.

For Senator Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, DICT should be consulted if they need funds for cybersecurity through confidential funds or through their maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).

“Dapat may pondo siya panlaban sa cybersecurity. Whether in the form of confidential or MOOE, ‘yan ang di ko pa masigurado. Maybe we should consult with the agency itself. Dahil ‘yan ang bagong form of warfare… You can paralyze a government online…Baka outdated na ‘yung ways of thinking natin,” he said in an ambush interview.

(The DICT should have funds for cybersecurity. Whether in the form of confidential or MOOE, that I am not sure of yet. Maybe we should consult with the agency itself. That is the new form of warfare. You can paralyze a government online. Maybe our ways of thinking are already outdated.)

Following the removal of the DICT’s confidential fund allocation, Uy said the fate of the cybersecurity of the nation is now in the hands of the lawmakers.

“We plan to appeal to the entire Congress to please consider that today, the threat is real. It’s not a potential threat. The warfare is not just physical, in fact, most of the warfare are now done online. Cyberwar is a reality. It's increasing in sophistication, and it's increasing in scale. The threats to our infrastructure [are] serious,” he said.

House Committee on Appropriations senior vice chairperson Stella Quimbo said on Tuesday that the proposed confidential funds of DICT and the other agencies have been realigned to their maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE). —VAL, GMA Integrated News