Philippine ICT agency hangs in balance

Fate of country's ICT government body in precarious state with the formal appointment of new administration, following this week's inauguration of new president Acquino.

MANILA--The fate of the country's ICT agency, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), appears to be in precarious state with the formal takeover of a new administration this week.

President Benigno "Noynoy" C. Aquino III, the son of former president Corazon C. Aquino and martyred opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., has yet to make any reference on his ICT agenda throughout the electoral campaign and during his inauguration on Jun. 30.

Aquino also did not name a CICT chair, who holds a cabinet-level position, in the list of department secretaries he announced a day before he formally assumed the presidency.

The new head of the Philippines had expressed in a television interview his opposition to the creation of a department of ICT (DICT). The CICT was created by former President Gloria Arroyo to serve as a transitory body prior to the formation of a DICT, but the legislature, was unable to pass the proposed law to do so.

The CICT, which is only a creation of an executive order, can readily be abolished by Aquino through a similar directive.

Observers said that is likely to happen since his running mate, Manuel A. Roxas II, who lost his vice presidential bid and is now being groomed as a presidential adviser, is opposed to the CICT and proposed DICT.

During his term as trade secretary, Roxas had felt that the ICT agency encroached on the functions of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Outgoing CICT chair Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua II expressed hopes that the new administration would not scrap the agency and instead build on the gains it has achieved since its creation in 2004.

In an interview at the CICT's main office in Quezon City, Roxas-Chua pointed to the successful rollout of its "cyber corridor" program across the country that he said significantly improved the country's standing in the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry.

The ICT authority is now effectively without a formal head after Aquino issued his first executive order, declaring all appointive positions in the government vacant. The CICT chair, along with the commissioners, is appointed by the president.

The CICT, as indicated in the order, will now be temporarily headed by the most senior official in the agency who holds the rank of career executive service officer (CESO).

Among those who are being eyed by Aquino to lead the CICT--if it is not abolished--are IBM Philippines' executive Ignacio "Bambi" Sevilla, former National Telecommunications chair Eliseo Rio, IT pioneer Augusto Lagman, and software executive Bettina Quimson.

Sources said Sevilla is likely to be appointed to the post as he is a close friend and classmate of Aquino's sister, Pinky Aquino-Abellada, and her husband Manuel Abellada. All three sworked at IBM Philippines in the early 1990s under then-country manager Virgilio Pena, who was eventually named the first chair of the CICT in 2004.

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.


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