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[This is the second article in my column, Catalyst]

Yesterday, President Aquino delivered his one-year milestone speech. Among the memorable quotations there, let me quote the following: “Ako man po ay nangangarap na bukas makalawa ay magising tayong may solusyon na sa bawat problemang minana natin. Ngunit alam ko pong mulat din kayo na wala ring maitutulong ang mabilisan, ngunit walang bisang solusyon. Kailangan ang maingat na paglalatag ng reporma, ang pagsigurong epektibo ang ating mga programa, at ang pangmatagalang mga tugon na hindi na magpapamana ng problema sa susunod na salinlahi.”

Rhetoric sometimes coincides with reality. However, many times it hides the opposite reality. Or to say it in another sense, rhetoric substitutes for the reality.

Let me cite a presidential action yesterday, coinciding with the speech. Malacañang published Executive Order No. 47 dated June 23, 2011 reorganizing, renaming and transferring the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) and its attached agencies to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). However, three days before, the president appointed Mr. Oliver Chato as CICT commissioner. Poor Mr. Chato only has a few weeks to enjoy his stint.

Executive Order 47 effectively divided the ICT policy formulation, policy recommendation and interconnectivity matters from the ICT industry supervision, regulation, and development. Much of the latter is still with DOTC while the former is now transferred to DOST. This will perpetuate, nay worsen, the current unwieldy and divided handling of ICT.

This is also completely opposed to the legislative proposal to establish a Department of Information and Communications Technology that will unify ICT governance. The proposed new department targets to rationalize a fast-rising and vital industry and ensure its continuing growth and contribution to the economy.

The way EO 47 was foisted on the stakeholders—without so much as a public or industry consultation—speaks of haste and lack of deep study. It thus opens to the suspicion that the dynamics that led to the issuance of EO 47 were not so much the dynamics of technical/administrative studies but the dynamics of internal power plays within the President’s own Cabinet.

Evidently, the left hand of the President does not know what his right hand is doing.

However, the problem does not stop there. EO 47 abolished the posts of CICT Chairman and of the commissioners but did not indicate if their functions are being transferred elsewhere. The CICT itself became the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) and is being placed under the policy, technical and administrative supervision of DOST. The ICTO is headed by an Executive Director, with the rank of an Undersecretary, who reports directly to the DOST Secretary.

Now—assuming it is still there—who inherits the functions of the CICT Chair: the DOST Secretary or the ICTO executive director?

Of interest to election watchdogs, who will chair the Comelec Advisory Council on Election Automation, specifically mandated by RA 9369—the Election Automation Law—to be the CICT Chairman? This is of immediate importance because the Comelec has not yet asked the Advisory Council to recommend the technology for the 2013 national and local elections. According to the original Comelec timetable, this should have been done last December 2010 yet.

“Kailangan ang maingat na paglalatag ng reporma, ang pagsigurong epektibo ang ating mga programa.” Executive Order 47 should be rescinded and, along with other proposals such as the DICT, be reviewed again, together with the stakeholders. Simple lang po Mr. President, di ba?

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