Following a memo from state auditors alleging the use of confidential funds that led to the agency’s underperformance, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) of Philippines admitted to using P300 million (nearly US$6,000,000) on sensitive matters including surveillance and cybersecurity, which the department deemed legitimate and necessary.
“Under existing laws, rules, and regulations, 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,” DICT said in a statement.
It also stated that the amount was disbursed in three tranches and was liquidated with the Commission of Audit (COA). The DICT also added that the COA did not disallow the disbursements, and the recommendations made by COA was merely a procedure the department is adhered to follow to keep up with the timeframes of disbursement. However, a series of reports from Rappler suggests COA has contradicted statements from DICT stating that DICT underspent for projects from the budget as the funds allotted for the agency were used up as confidential funds.
“The information systems in our country [need] continuous monitoring so that both domestic and foreign cyber threats and cyberattacks can be identified, addressed, and promptly neutralized to protect the safety and security of our nation. These cybersecurity threat monitoring activities have a direct impact on national security,” DICT said. “As a member of the National Security Council, the DICT is mandated to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, 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.”
After the memo was released by the auditors, DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. also resigned from his post citing that he was excluded from planning for the use of the confidential funds. “My position is that the DICT does not need intel or confidential funds because it is not [within] its mandate to conduct intel or surveillance activities. But the position of Secretary Honasan is that this is needed by him,” Rio told GMA News Online.