By Mario Casayuran
Two veteran senators think former senator Gregorio Honasan II should be given the chance to give his side to his former colleagues in the 24-member Senate, amid allegations he had a hand in the disbursement of P300 million in confidential funds belonging to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III joined Sen. Panfilo Lacson in inclining toward giving Honasan the opportunity to air his thoughts on the allegations of recently resigned Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. that the confidential funds were disbursed on instructions of Honasan, current DICT secretary.
“We both think Secretary Honasan deserves the opportunity to give his side,” said Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee.
Sotto and Lacson earlier filed a resolution seeking to revive a special Senate oversight committee that would look into the disbursement of intelligence funds of various government agencies.
The resolution was filed Monday after news of Rio’s resignation as DICT undersecretary.
“Once the resolution that SP (Senate President) Sotto and I filed early this week is adopted and the oversight committee is reconstituted, we will meet to decide on the way forward,” Lacson said.
The oversight committee would be staffed with four members of the Senate majority bloc and two from the Senate minority group.
Honasan and Rio are close friends. They are also graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), as is Lacson.
Asked whether it would be difficult for him to conduct an inquiry involving a former colleague, Lacson replied: “This may sound irrelevant to the issue at hand, but I happen to know that he [Honasan] did not in any way seek his present cabinet position.
“In fact, it was his personal effort to ‘lobby’ for the permanent appointment of then DICT-OIC (officer-in-charge) Rio that brought him there.”
Reports showed that Rio questioned the disbursement, saying it was not the mandate of the DICT to conduct intelligence and surveillance work.
The DICT had P400 million in confidential funds in 2019 and has P800 million for 2020.
Rio, a retired brigadier general, said it was Honasan who had sought the confidential funds for the DICT while he was still a senator.
He had felt left out of key decision-making processes at the DICT after Honasan took over the department.
Rio was DICT OIC before Honasan’s appointment as a member of the Duterte Cabinet was confirmed by the Commission on Appointment on Sept. 11 last year.
READ MORE: DICT Usec Rio offers to resign from post