Sunlight is best disinfectant
In November 2018, I mentioned that acting secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Brig. Gen. Eliseo Rio Jr. graduated from the University of the Philippines with an electrical engineering degree followed by an electronics and communications engineering degree from the University of the East. Rio is the son of Col. Eliseo Rio Sr., one of the most distinguished alumni of the Philippine Military Academy who graduated at the top of Class 1942. Rio Jr., or Junie as friends call him, is a product of the UP ROTC Program. In the armed forces, he served in military intelligence and was posted as our defense attaché in Kuala Lumpur. He knows the ins and outs of intelligence work and can smell a rotten fish miles away. He was also the commandant of the AFP Command and General Staff College and at the time of his retirement, he was AFP deputy chief of staff for communications, electronic and information systems.
With his background, one would think that Junie Rio would have been a shoo-in for the job of DICT secretary. But after a few days, the appointment papers of Sen. Gregorio Honasan II as DICT chief was signed by the President.
Honasan is one of the more famous members of PMA Class 1971. His classmates include Sen. Panfilo Lacson, former AFP chief of staff Gen. Narciso Abaya, former PNP chief Gen. Ed Aglipay, and Ambassador Marciano Paynor.
Honasan who was the first captain of his class at the PMA, played a key role in the 1986 Edsa Revolution that saw the ouster of President Ferdinand Marcos. In the heady days after the successful revolt, he was the darling of both the local and international media with his good looks, personal charisma, and daring accomplishments. After a fallout with President Cory Aquino, he would lead two unsuccessful coup attempts against her. In his bid for national reconciliation and unity, President Fidel Ramos granted amnesty to the coup plotters. Honasan would parlay his fame into a Senate seat in 1995, becoming the first senator to be elected as an independent.
Last week, Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. dropped a bombshell by submitting his letter of resignation from the Cabinet. While the letter did not indicate any specific reason for leaving the DICT, Rio in an interview with the Inquirer, pointed to a lack of transparency in the disbursement of hundreds of millions of pesos in confidential funds used for surveillance — a function beyond the mandate of the DICT. In 2019, DICT confidential funds amounted to P400 million and that has doubled to P800 million this year. The funds are not subject to normal audit procedures. Rio also indicated that although he was undersecretary for operations, he was out of the loop in key operations of the DICT.
The Rio and Honasan families are actually quite close. Greg Honasan and Jun Rio are baptismal godbrothers since Jun’s parents are godparents to Honasan’s siblings while Greg’s parents are godparents to Jun’s brothers. In fact, Honasan addresses Rio as “Manong Junie,” being the younger one. Unfortunately, “Manong Junie” was outside the kulambo when it came to sensitive issues involving the department’s use of confidential funds, indicating a level of mistrust for Rio.
The joint statement recently issued by the two gentlemen appears to indicate some amicable settlement of their differences. One must read the statement in full to appreciate its contents. A line in the last paragraph reads: “Undersecretary Rio stands behind the Secretary and gives his full support to your DICT’s programs and projects. Let us all give our full support to the Secretary.”
Unfortunately, we must bear in mind this is the second brush with the law for Honasan, both in connection with the use of special government funds. In August 2017, Honasan was charged before the Sandiganbayan with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund in 2012. The case has not yet been resolved and until then, he is presumed innocent.
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Some types of disease, prevalent in developing nations, are often treated without the benefit of antibiotics or prescription drugs. Simple exposure to sunlight is sufficient to stop and heal the infection.
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