By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III is confident that Senator Gregorio Honasan would be an asset to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) once he assumes his post as its new chief.
Sotto, in a forum in Manila Wednesday, vouched for his close friend as he confirmed anew Honasan’s impending appointment by President Duterte as the new DICT Secretary.
According to Sotto, the Palace is scheduled to release a document about Honasan’s assignment to the agency on Monday, November 12.
“Last October 29, we had a meeting with the President, Senator [Panfilo] Lacson, Senator Honasan and myself, together with [Executive Secretary Salvador] Medialdea and Secretary Bong Go. It was discussed na kung pwede, November 12 na si Greg (that if possible, Greg can move to the DICT by November 12),” Sotto said.
But instead of an ad interim appointment, Sotto said they proposed that a “nomination” of Honasan be done.
This means Honasan will remain as senator until he is confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA) and takes his oath as the DICT chief.
“When we resume next week (November 12), he will still be in the Senate. But I think the nomination will come out already,” Sotto said, citing their recent meeting.
He said he hopes that Honasan will be confirmed by the CA before they go on a break in December.
Sotto said there has long been an invitation from the Palace for Honasan to lead the DICT but they decided to put it off “because we were thinking that we need Greg at the time.”
Honasan has been elusive to questions from media regarding the development, which Sotto admitted was done in purpose.
The Senate President said Honasan will be an asset in the DICT especially with his experience in the military.
“I think he (Honasan) will be an asset in DICT. Because what we are only seeing in the DICT is the communications technology [aspect]. But not only that, national security is a big factor,” he said.
Sotto said Honasan’s “expertise” will also contribute to the planned entry of a third telecommunications player in the country.
Sotto said they were only joking when he and Lacson were talking about Honasan’s “jurassic” cellphone ahead of his appointment to the DICT.
Sotto, in an earlier interview, said Honasan still keeps his Nokia 3210 phone despite already having a smartphone.
For this reason, Sotto said Honasan is fit to be DICT secretary since he “mastered” an “unhackable” technology because an old cellphone model is less prone to hacking.
He said Honasan has been studying and preparing for his new post.
“One thing that I’m certain [about] is that Sen. Honasan is a good manager. He will not disrupt anything that is ongoing, that is good, and that is beneficial to the government. I’m very positive about that,” he said.
Sotto believes that acting Sec. Eliseo Rio, who will not be leaving the DICT, to orient and help Honasan keep up with the developments in the agency, particularly the facilitation of the entry of the third telco player.
Sotto also said that Honasan would be a “big loss” to the Senate, citing how he handles and participates in committee hearings.
“Sa isang banda, hindi totally mawawala since he will be in the executive department, we can avail of his services every now and then,” Sotto said.
“Every now and then, pwede namin siyang pagalitan ni Senator Lacson pag may pagkukulang siya,” Sotto said in jest.
Sotto, on the other hand, maintained that the Senate’s work will not be affected by the reduction in the number of its members when Honasan leaves.
At present, there are 23 remaining senators after former Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano resigned last year to lead the Department of Foreign Affairs, while Sen. Leila de Lima is currently detained.
“As long as we have quorum, we don’t have a problem. Even though we are only 21, it will still be the same work,” said the Senate chief.
Sotto said Lacson is poised to replace Honasan as chair of the Senate committee on defense, although he has yet to discuss the matter with members of the majority.
Aside from the defense committee, Honasan also chairs the committee on peace, unification, and reconciliation, and the ad hoc committee on the rehabilitation of the war-torn Marawi City.