Senators back Honasan's integrity but assert impartiality in probe on DICT funds

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 05 2020 10:53 PM

MANILA - Senate leaders on Wednesday attested to Department of Information Communications and Technology (DICT) Sec. Gringo Honasan's "integrity" and "track record", but said the chamber will remain impartial in probing the intelligence funds of the DICT.

An audit report earlier showed that under Honasan's tenure as DICT chief, the agency spent P300 million for intelligence, instead of disbursing it to communications and technology-related projects.

"Marami nagulat. Marami sa amin (senators) naniniwala he is a man of integrity... kaya dapat malaman natin kung ano nangyari sa intel fund, baka naman ginamit sa intel or shinare sa ibang agency. We will see," Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri told reporters in a chance interview.

"Sa pagkakilala ko sa kaniya (Honasan) 'di ma-involve sa anomaly 'yan," Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a separate interview.

Sotto and Senate Committee on National Defense and Security Panfilo Lacson earlier filed a resolution seeking to revive a legislative oversight committee authorized to probe the use of intelligence funds. 

Honasan used to be part of the Senate's "Macho Bloc" along with Sotto and Lacson. Honasan and Lacson were also classmates in the Philippine Military Academy's Class of 1971.

NOT FOR HONASAN

Despite their close relations with Honasan, Lacson said the resolution was not filed just to give the former senator an avenue to defend himself.

"Na-create ito noong 17th Congress so we’re just reconstituting it not solely for the purpose of looking into some insinuations involving former Sen. Honasan," Lacson said.

"All-encompassing ang special committee. Lahat ng confidential intelligence funds puwede tingnan noon," he said.

The inquiry will also be a good avenue for other DICT officials to clarify the alleged misuse of funds, the Senate President said.

"This will give the DICT a chance to explain everything," Sotto said.

"Kung ano reklamo, kung ano makita, 'yan ang pag-uusapan. It will always be public hearing. It will not be closed-door or executive session, para walang masabi," he said.

The Senate is expected to pass the resolution on reviving the oversight committee during the February 5 session, Zubiri said.

Sotto gave a different timeline, saying the resolution may be passed next week, while the committee may constituted by the third week of February.

"We will fast track the approval of the committee para maaksyunan ang mga akusasyon sa kaniya (Honasan) so that he has the proper venue," Zubiri said.