Acting DICT chief may stay till June

Eliseo Rio Jr. may remain as the acting chief of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) at least through June.

A source with knowledge on the matter told The Manila Times Rio, a retired military general, might keep his position “until end of June” or longer, as President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to appoint a new DICT chief.

Although Duterte in November nominated Sen. Gregorio Honasan 2nd for the DICT post, the Commission on Appointment failed to confirm him last year, which means Honasan’s status was “bypassed” and needs to be reappointed by the President.

Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd previously said Honasan would assume the DICT leadership before 2018 ended, or by early 2019.
However, the timing as well as issues involving the Constitution might not allow Honasan to get the position from Rio anytime soon, the source said over the weekend.

According to Article 6, Section 13 of the 1987 Constitution, no senator or member of the House of Representatives must be appointed “to any office which may have been created or the emoluments thereof increased during the term for which he was elected.”

Honasan, a retired Army officer, was already a senator when the law creating the DICT was signed on May 23, 2016. His second six-year tenure at the Senate would end in June.

Another order blocking the potential appointment of a new DICT chief is the Commission on Elections Resolution 10429 under the Omnibus Election Code, where so-called “midnight appointments,” or “appointment or hiring of new employees, creation or filling up of new positions …” are prohibited during March 29 to May 12, 2019. The election period kicked off on January 13.

Given those, the source said there was no certainty yet as to who would be appointed as the next DICT chief.

Even Sotto, himself, on January 10 hinted a possibility that Honasan might be appointed to a different department.

Rio, who has been leading the current administration’s third telcocommunications initiative, told The Times in December that if Honasan were to replace him, he could “work well” with the legislator, as the latter expressed support for the department’s current projects, including free WiFi internet access in public places, national broadband plan and common tower policy, among others.

The government official served as DICT undersecretary before the President named him in May 2018 as acting chief of the agency.

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