DICT bill in limbo or dead?

Philippine Congress passes Department of ICT (DICT) bill earlier this year, but political interference may be behind delay in ratification and implementation.
Written by Melvin G. Calimag, Contributor

Over the last few years, I've lost count of the number of stories that I’ve written about the proposed Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). If I recall it right, it's been over a decade since the first bill proposing for its establishment was filed in Congress.

Finally, a breakthrough came when Congress surprisingly passed the DICT bill early this year. It was able to do this despite simultaneously holding the highly-publicized impeachment trial of former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona.

As expected, the whole IT industry rejoiced at this milestone. Here, finally, was a piece of legislation that would bring stability and direction to the country's main industry. But, while the country's IT denizens was celebrating the landmark event, a few people at Malacanang--including President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III--was fretting.

It's an open secret that Aquino, along with his top lieutenants Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, who is the transportation and communications secretary, and Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa, the executive secretary, are not supportive of the establishment of DICT.

Congress took its cue from the palace and, at the last minute, scuttled the bicameral conference committee that was supposed to reconcile the two versions of the DICT approved by the two chambers of the legislature.

To compensate for the omission and perhaps to mollify the tech industry, Congress worked to pass the cybercrime bill. It then quickly formed a bicameral panel to approve the final version of the proposed law, together with the data privacy bill which it also ratified earlier.

In short, the DICT bill was left out in favor of the cybercrime bill even though the former was passed earlier. This is not to say that cybercrime is less important than the DICT, but it's clear there are some behind-the-scenes maneuverings going on.

Our IT press group, Cyberpress, recently had a roundtable discussion with the chairperson of the House ICT committee, Sigfrido Tinga, who was also convinced that the DICT bill may have a hard time becoming a law without the blessing from the Malacanang Palace.

I hate to be a prophet of doom, but I have this feeling that as long the Aquino administration is in power, we'll never get to see a department dedicated to the ICT sector. Sadly, this bill is as good as dead.

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