This is the age of information technology, where the internet serves as the main highway for nearly every personal, commercial, or business transaction.
This is the reason the “Communications” in the Department of Transportation and Communications was devolved last year into a separate agency called the Department of Information and Communications Technology, or DICT.
Its first head is lawyer Rodolfo Salalima, a schoolmate of President Duterte who spent many of his working years at telecommunications firm Globe Telecom.
Last week, Salalima admitted that he submitted a letter of resignation on Sept. 5 to President Duterte, citing — as is common among officials leaving the government — “personal and work-related reasons.”
But he was more specific when he addressed DICT employees last Friday. He told them there were two reasons he decided to quit his post: corruption and interference.
He called the emergency general assembly of DICT employees to preempt the spin doctors of those who had tried to corrupt him and/or interfere with his operations from twisting or giving other reasons for his resignation.
During the assembly, the Inquirer noted that he made a number of references to favors he rejected and to his struggle “to do the right thing” as DICT secretary for the past 14 months.
He explained that he accepted the post after President Duterte promised that there would be no interference and no corruption in the agency.
“I resisted pressures. On the issue of interference, it was not obeyed. Because of that, I had to and must resign,” Salalima told DICT employees.
Reading a portion of his letter to Mr. Duterte, Salalima again mentioned the times he resisted corruption.
“I rejected favors. I rejected and opposed corruption in this government… and this is what I meant. I have to resign,” he said.
He did not detail what pressure he had faced and from which quarters, and only told this newspaper after the DICT assembly that he would be free to talk once his resignation was accepted.
However, an Inquirer source revealed that some of the interference was coming from certain government factions and included pressure to favor certain suppliers in the DICT’s biggest project so far, the P77.9-billion national broadband project designed to provide high-speed internet to either unserved or underserved areas in the Philippines.
An earlier version of the national broadband project was scrapped during the Arroyo administration due to allegations of corruption.
Another Inquirer informant claimed there were multiple other sources of “pressure” and that Salalima had grown weary of the slow bureaucratic process that came with public office. Whatever the reason, it is clear that corruption and interference are affecting this new government agency.
During the DICT assembly, Salalima said he had been informed that the President had yet to accept his resignation and that the latter wanted to speak with him.
This is an opportunity for the President to be informed of what is really happening at the DICT that might be occurring in other agencies of the government as well. The President should grab this opportunity to find out who in his administration have been interfering in the affairs of other government agencies to favor certain private individuals or companies.
Salalima surely has firsthand information on this. He is one person who can talk to the President straightforwardly because they have known each other since their college days.
As an aside, the Inquirer heard that among those being considered as Salalima’s replacement is musician Ramon “RJ” Jacinto because of his current role as presidential adviser on ICT and economic affairs.
Another candidate, according to reports, is Carlos Caliwara, DICT assistant secretary and chief of staff.
If ever the President decides to accept Salalima’s resignation, a proper vetting process should be made to choose his successor. The DICT is too important an agency to be given to someone who is not qualified.
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