By Mario Casayuran
Senator Gregorio B. Honasan II on Friday accepted the offer of President Duterte to head the Department of Communications and Technology (DICT).
Honasan, chairman of the Senate National Defense and Security Committee, said his acceptance was “for a better Philippines, a better government, for the Filipino people, and for a better future for our most precious children.”
In a statement, Presidential Spokeman Salvador Panelo said, “We are glad that Senator Gregorio Honasan has accepted the offer of the President to join his official family and head the Department of Information and Communications Technology.”
“With the entry of a provisional new major player in the telecommunications industry, we are confident that the senator would provide good direction and sound management to the DICT, consistent with the President’s priority programs beneficial to Filipino consumers in the areas of information, communications and technology.”
“For now, we congratulate Senator Honasan and wish him all the best as he undertakes genuine reforms in the DICT,” Panelo added.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said the Senate would miss the former Army colonel who would be of great value to the Executive Department.
Senator Francis Escudero said he would miss his “kababayan in the Senate’’ and wished him well. Both are from the province of Sorsogon.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Economic Affairs and Energy Committees, said that for many years, Filipinos have suffered from the slowest “Internet” speed in the Asia Pacific region.
“According to the 2017 report of Akamai, an internet speed measuring platform, 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! (The Philippines does not only have the slowest internet speed but is the costliest as well),” Gatchalian noted.
“It’s time to crack the whip on the abuses by the telecom duopoly,” Gatchalian said, apparently referring to the two telecommunications giants – Smart and Globe.
“Senator Honasan is known as a passionate public servant and a disciplinarian.
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,’’ he added.
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, chairman of the Senate Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee, said he would definitely miss Honasan for many reasons, “including the committee
hearings that both provided each other the quorum needed to conduct business.’’
“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,’’ he pointed out.
“For one, nobody can dispute the fact that a country’s Internet speed is directly proportional to its GDP (Gross Domestic Product). I have no doubt that he has it in his consciousness when he takes over his job,’’ he added.
Lacson said Honasan had actually discussed his impending appointment with Senate President Sotto and himself when it was offered to him six months ago.
Honasan reportedly sought their opinion and advice on the matter.
“It was his for the asking but not without deference to Acting Secretary Rio who was our instructor in the (Philippine Military) Academy when we were still cadets,” he said. Honasan’s appointment was formalized when the three (Sotto, Honasan and Lacson) met with President Duterte in Davao City about two weeks ago.
“He (Honasan) expects to receive his nomination next week so he doesn’t have to resign from the Senate until confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA),” he said.
“Having said that, we wish him all the best in his new job. I will particularly miss him being my perennial and automatic quorum buddy in all my committee
hearings and vice versa. I guess, with him out of the senate, I will have to make do with the other macho(nurin) bloc member, Senate President Sotto as my automatic quorum buddy,” he added.
“By the way, the very first advice Senate President Sotto and I gave him when he first confided to us the president’s offer was to ‘ditch’ and replace his Jurassic cell phone unit immediately to at least appear ‘techie’,’’ Lacson shared.
Senator Grace Poe is confident Honasan will be able to perform his role as the new DICT chief.
She said Honasan, whom she described as “dedicated and efficient,” will ensure that “our country will be able to modernize and make technological advances that can support growth and development.”
The chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services also noted that Honasan’s appointment in the DICT may alleviate doubts over the selection of the Mislatel consortium of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corporation and state-owned China Telecommunications as the new provisional new major player.
“He comes in at a critical time of the selection of the new major player. His appointment can help allay fears surrounding national security as I know him to be a cautious and patriotic guy who would put the country above everything else,” Poe said. (With reports from Argyll B. Geducos and Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola)