Esperon denies he had Rio removed from DICT
MANILA, Philippines – National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr on Monday, June 15, denied he had something to do with the removal of Eliseo Rio Jr as information and communications technology (ICT) undersecretary.
He had no reason to want Rio out, and since Rio did file for resignation earlier this year, it was the President’s prerogative to accept it, Esperon told reporters in an interview.
“Ba’t ka pa nag-file ng resignation kung ayaw mo palang mag-resign?” Esperon added. (Why did you file your resignation if you did not want to resign after all?)
Esperon also denied Rio’s speculation that he was removed because he opposed the adoption of the StaySafe mobile app as the government’s official platform for contact-tracing for COVID-19.
'After all, we're friends'
The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases decided on StaySafe in mid-April “because we urgently needed a contact-tracing app,” said Esperon.
Rio was present in the meeting when StaySafe was presented to the IATF along with other apps, he added. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Eliseo Rio Jr on govt's use of technology to fight COVID-19)
Meanwhile, Rio sent a proposal for “his own system” on May 15, which the task force discussed on May 21, Esperon said, adding that Rio wanted the government to use multiple contact-tracing apps.
It would not have been feasible because Google and Apple would only give their bluetooth notification system to a single company, and besides, Rio’s proposal came too late, Esperon added.
Was Rio jealous over the appointment of another ICT undersecretary, Manny Caintic, as head of the IATF’s sub-task group on IT matters? Esperon said he had nothing to do with it, and he had no reason to doubt Caintic’s capability.
Besides, Rio was assigned other tasks – setting up the national broadband network, and the proposal to use common towers for telcos, Esperon added. Rio earlier opposed the use of common towers, saying it was “anti-competitive.”
Esperon said it was a shame Rio would think he would have him removed. “After all, we’re friends. ‘Dami naming pinagsamahan (We’ve been through a lot together),” Esperon added.
'No one else to blame'
Rio tried to resign from his post at the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in January. He said he felt left out of ICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan’s circle, and he questioned Honasan’s use of the agency’s confidential funds.
Duterte, however, rejected Rio’s resignation, and ordered him to make amends with Honasan. Rio remained with the DICT, until the President’s surprise “acceptance” in May of his January resignation.
Rio felt it was because he did not back StaySafe, which, according to him, Esperon sponsored.
Rio flagged the lack of proper vetting of StaySafe’s technology, and its data privacy issues. An ICT expert called it “borderline spyware.”
StaySafe was developed by the private company Multisys Technologies Corporation led by CEO David Almirol Jr, who has links to Esperon.
Esperon said Monday he and Rio had worked with Almirol at the National Cybersecurity Inter-Agency Committee, and Almirol had been helpful.
“He shouldn’t blame other people for how he wound up where he is – his own resignation accepted,” Esperon said in Filipino. – Rappler.com