Despite Palace opposition, Congress passage of DICT bill looms

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By Melvin G Calimag The House of Representatives has approved on second reading the proposed law creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in spite of Malacanang?s withdrawal of support for its passage. [caption id="attachment_28782" align="aligncenter" width="620"]Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez[/caption] The lower chamber?s passage of the bill on second reading means that the period of debate is over and that the proposed legislation will now be sent to the plenary for voting ? a stage known as third reading, which is largely ceremonial since a number of House members have already indicated their approval of the proposed measure. Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez said during a recent Northern Mindanao roadshow by the Department of Science and Technology that he was certain of the passage of the measure. Rodriguez said it was high time for the country to have an agency dedicated to the local ICT industry. In early September, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the DICT bill was included in the short-list of bills that will be prioritized for approval by the legislative body. The Magdalo party-list group has also thrown their support behind the DICT bill. After its expected approval in the third reading, the House version of the DICT bill will be sent to the bilateral conference committee to be reconciled with the approved Senate version. While Congress has been eager to form the DICT, Malacanang stands as a stumbling block as Pres. Benigno Aquino III has already made known his opposition to the bill. Aquino was quoted in a local newspaper that he is not yet convinced of the necessity of creating a separate department for ICT. This position is in contrast to the pronouncement made in December 2014 by DOST undersecretary and ICT Office executive director Louis Casambre, who said the Palace is already amenable to the creation of the DICT. In the event that the bill is vetoed by Aquino, the Congress can still make it a law by overriding his veto. This option, however, has rarely been done, if exercised at all. Those pushing for the bill are not deterred by Malacanang?s opposition. Lawyer Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, chair of the National ICT Council of the Philippines, said in a Facebook post that ?the Divine Powers want this country to prosper against all odds.? ?Innovation is here [just] when we are supposed to give up after almost two decades of lobbying… Let us go out and congratulate all our congressmen for listening to the call of the New Era,? she posted. ]]>

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