It?s official: DICT bill sails through House without hitch

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With more than 200 votes in favor and no one against it, the proposed law creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) hurdled on Friday, Oct. 9, the third and final reading in the House of Representatives.

Photo credit: wikipedia.org
Photo credit: wikipedia.org

The approval of House Bill 6198 was a mere formality since the lower chamber had passed it on second reading ? also overwhelmingly — earlier in the week.

Lawyer Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, also the chairperson of the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP), said it was Magdalo party-list representative Ashley Acedillo who marshaled the support needed for the bill?s passage.

Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez also earlier vowed to ensure the approval measure, saying the country badly needs an agency dedicated to ICT matters.

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.

Congress is now expected to form a bicameral committee to reconcile the newly approved House Bill 6198 with the Senate?s approved version. The panel can also adopt either version from the House or the Senate. The final copy will then be forwarded to Malacanang for Pres. Benigno Aquino III?s signature.

But with Aquino?s stance against the creation of the DICT still unchanged, the legislation may yet suffer the same fate it encountered in 2012 when Congress approved the bill only to be ignored by Aquino. With Congress failing to convene a bicam committee to produce a report, the bill eventually lapsed with the adjournment at the 15th Congress in 2013.

Aquino?s disapproval of the DICT stemmed primarily from the objection raised by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) whose ICT-related agencies, particularly the Information and Communications and Technology Office (ICT Office) and the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), will be absorbed under the new ICT department.

For NICP?s Batapa-Sigue, she said in a Facebook post that the bill?s passage could be the country?s last ticket ?before the train finally leaves.?

?To all ICT champions and stakeholders, we have come to almost two decades of waiting for the Philippines to finally take the leap of faith and embrace innovation as a key to ensuring a more developed, stable, and robust economy, and nation in general.

?We need to unite. I appeal to you all — especially for the sake of the countryside — the cities, towns and provinces, which needed the jobs, investments, programs and systems to uplift the lives of our fellow Filipinos,? she added.

Batapa-Sigue said the ICT sector must now show united front to pressure Aquino into signing the bill.

?Let us push for the immediate bicameral conference of our two houses – as I believe they will swiftly act. I have seen how our legislators have started to co-own the DICT initiative and I know they will fast track its passage. Let us stand without fear behind the DICT bill as the two Houses of Congress have already strongly spoken it its favor,? she said.

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