The Department of Information and Communications Technology is issuing this statement in response to various news articles which may have inaccurately misled the public on the disbursement of Three Hundred Million Pesos (P300,000,000.00) from the Confidential Expenses, a line item allocated to the Department under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2019. (See Vol.115, No. 17, p.914).
Under existing laws, rules, and regulations, the Confidential Expense item is for lawful monitoring and surveillance of systems and networks to support the DICT’s functions, which include cybersecurity, the formulation and effective implementation of the National Cybersecurity Plan, and international cooperation on intelligence on cybersecurity matters. (§81, 2019 GAA; COA-DBM-DILG-GCG-DND Joint Circular (JC) 2015-01, “Guidelines on the Entitlement, Releases, Use, Reporting, and Audit of Confidential and/or Intelligence Funds,” cf. §15[b][i], RA 10844, otherwise known as the “Department of Information and Communications Technology Act of 2015”). The DICT is mandated to protect the security of consumers and business users in ICT-related matters (§6 IV[n], RA 10844), and to render technical assistance to other government agencies on ICT-related enforcement and administration (Id. at §6, III[h])—all in line with the State’s policy to secure our critical ICT infrastructures, the information assets of the government, businesses, and individuals; to oversee all agencies governing the ICT sector; and to safeguard consumer welfare, data privacy, and security. (Id. at §2).
The cyber-threat problem faced by our nation is increasing at an alarming rate. From 2018 to 2019 alone, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky’s ranking of countries at the most risk of online infection saw the Philippines climb from 17th to 12th place. Kaspersky’s Q4 2019 Security Bulletin also reportedly placed the Philippines as the 7th most attacked in terms of cyber threats in the web. This increasing problem in cybersecurity needs to be addressed immediately and effectively. To do this, the expenditure of the funds, allocated as it was by Congress for that purpose, was both necessary and indispensable.
A key component of cyber security is information gathering on our ICT systems, and aiding the government agencies involved in law enforcement and the defense of our nation and its people. Strategies for cybercrime and cybersecurity incident prevention are needed, together with the proper use of cyber tools, to protect our public safety and our nation’s security. The information systems in our country needs continuous monitoring so that both domestic and foreign cyber threats and cyber-attacks can be identified, addressed, and promptly neutralized to protect the safety and security of our nation. These cybersecurity threat monitoring activities have a direct impact on national security. As a member of the National Security Council, the DICT is mandated to protect the nation’s Critical Infostructures, its government networks both civilian and military, its small-medium enterprises to large businesses, the corporations and its supply chains, and every Filipino citizen using the internet. (See National Security Policy).
Of the 2019 GAA Confidential Expense item for the Department, Three Hundred Million Pesos (P300,000,000.00) was disbursed in (3) tranches of One Hundred Million Pesos (P100,000,000.00), each of which were liquidated with the Commission on Audit (COA). The COA did not disallow the disbursements. Its recommendations were procedural, pertaining mainly to the timeframes for disbursement. Simply put, the COA’s main concern is for the Department to be more efficient in processing the relevant documents—all of which the Department has addressed.
In sum, the Confidential Expense allocated in the 2019 GAA was legitimately used for cybersecurity and the protection of our national security, with the safety of our government’s information facilities and institutions, and the welfare of our people, being the Department’s utmost priority. Rest assured, that proper procedures were followed, and the disbursements were regular in accordance with applicable accounting and auditing laws, rules, and regulations.