MANILA - Former Information and Communications Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said he was "eased out" of the government after he questioned a deal designating just one contact-tracing app for COVID-19.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Rio, who once served as Acting Secretary of the DICT, said President Rodrigo Duterte had accepted his resignation after he questioned why "only StaySafe was accepted by the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases] without any technical vetting.'
Rio said Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque called him early morning on May 22, to say the President has accepted his resignation.
When Rio said that he had not submitted any resignation letter to the President, Roque reminded him of the letter he submitted in January, which the President did not accept at that time.
The former DICT official said that when the enhanced community quarantine was implemented on March 15, he prepared a central platform that would "integrate and operationalize" all COVID-19 data being generated by the different agencies.
His plan was endorsed by DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan and Secretary Carlito Galvez who was tasked to head the National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19, the government body implementing the policies formulated by IATF.
Rio said he recommended using multiple methods for contact tracing which would not rely solely on smartphones. He said this was because 3G and 4G mobile internet connectivity were not available everywhere in the Philippines, and many Filipinos still used 2G phones.
But he said the recommendation of the 2 secretaries was disregarded by the IATF, which then endorsed StaySafe for the government's contact-tracing initiatives.
Rio said he was "eased out from the government at this crucial time" with the President accepting his four-month-old resignation letter.
"Last Sunday, June 7, I have [sic] to break my silence to reach out to the IATF that if they only depend on StaySafe as the government contact tracing app, we would never be able to flatten this pandemic curve which will mean more deaths and may damage our economy that may take years to recover," Rio said on his June 10 Facebook post.
Musician and businessman Ramon Jacinto was tapped to replace Rio last month.
Rio and Jacinto previously quarreled over the common telco tower policy, with Jacinto insisting on a duopoly, and Rio favoring a free market approach to the roll out of new telco infrastructure.