By Beting Laygo Dolor | Contributing Editor
From a military rebel who played a key role in the 1986 EDSA Revolution to a multi-term senator and now, as head of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan has certainly come a long way.
While President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Honasan would head the newly created Department months ago, the Senator could not assume the Cabinet post until after he officially stepped down as senator after reaching his term limit.
In the meantime, the DICT was headed by Eliseo Rio Jr. in an acting capacity. Rio is expected to stay with the Department as an undersecretary.
Honasan finally took his oath of office as the country’s first DICT secretary on July 2 but not before industry leaders questioned his qualifications to head the department.
The law creating the Department states that whoever is appointed head must have at least seven years of experience in the industry.
They cite his use of an ancient Nokia 3210 as proof that Honasan is not exactly tech savvy.
After being sworn in, he was seen tinkering with a new smart phone.
The 71-year-old Honasan admitted that he was not a tech expert. He, however, said that he had the management experience and expertise to succeed, as well as his decades as a public servant.
“If there are questions about my technical competence, maybe it’s up for debate. But I would put these credentials – 44 years of public service – on the table and let the appointing authority decide,” he said.
Honasan must first pass through the Commission on Appointments (CA) gauntlet before he can be the permanent head of the DICT. While it should be noted that several of Duterte’s Cabinet appointees failed to be confirmed by the CA, working in Honasan’s favor is the friendly relations he has maintained with the majority of the Senate.
His allies in the Senate have even stated that his confirmation is a foregone conclusion.
Even freshman Sen. Imee Marcos, whose family was kicked out of Malacañang by the 1986 revolt spearheaded by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) of which Honasan was one of the founders, is not expected to contest his appointment.
Honasan said he was banking on a “solid wall” within the Senate to guarantee his confirmation by the CA.
Given the authority to re-organize the Department by President Duterte, Honasan said he would prioritize either the hiring or the retention of qualified people.
As head of the DICT, Honasan is responsible for planning, coordinating, and implementing the Philippines’ ICT agenda.
As one of his undersecretaries, Rio is expected to be a formidable ally of Honasan. The two have been friends for the longest time and Rio is a retired general whose expertise was intelligence.
Rio vouched for the expertise of Honasan in the field of information security management.
One of the first tasks at hand for the new DICT secretary is the forthcoming roll-out of the country’s third telco, the Mislatel Consortium. Honasan promised a level playing field for the three telcos and even said he welcomes a fourth or even fifth telco.
In the 2016 elections, Honasan ran for vice-president as running mate of Jejomar Binay but he was a non-factor as the race was only between former Sen. Bongbong Marcos and eventual winner Leni Robredo.
The highest post he attained in the Armed Forces of the Philippines was as Army major. His RAM supported then Defense Sec. Juan Ponce Enrile and AFP Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel Ramos, who broke away from the Marcos regime and installed Corazon Aquino as president of the Philippines back in 1986.