After intense grilling, CA approves appointment of DICT chief

After undergoing through a gauntlet of questions, the Commission of Appointments (CA) formally approved on Wednesday, Dec. 7, the appointment of Ivan John E. Uy as secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Among the questions hurled on Uy at the committee level hearing was regarding the appointment of Jose Vicente “Jovy” Salazar, the controversial former chair of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), as undersecretary of the DICT.

Salazar has been accused by the family of the late ERC director Francisco Jose Villa Jr. as the reason for his suicide. Salazar was subsequently dismissed from the ERC in 2017 after he was found guilty by the Office of the President of two counts of simple misconduct and one count of grave misconduct in relation to corruption charges.

During the hearing, CA member Johnny Pimentel threatened to block the confirmation of Uy for having Salazar as an underling. But Uy revealed that Salazar had already submitted a letter of resignation last Nov. 30, saying he needed to take care of his sick wife.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, for her part, sought a clarification on Uy’s “abrupt” resignation as deputy clerk of court for information technology when he was with the Supreme Court (SC) in 2005.

Hontiveros said reports alleged that Uy resigned from his position due to purported anomalies discovered by former uustice Antonio Carpio. The lawmaker said they also got information that Uy was made to resign by former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. after an investigation on him.

Uy said Davide knew his plan to resign but had asked him to stay and help institute judicial reforms at the SC. He said he had tendered his resignation six months prior to Davide’s retirement.

He said Davide and former chief justice Artemio Panganiban issued a commendation letter to him before their retirement. Uy cited financial obligations to his family as his reason for his resignation.

“My father was subsidizing me and encouraged me to leave the government. My salary was not enough if I want to send my children to good schools,” Uy said.

Sen. Nancy Binay, on the other hand, asked Uy regarding to proliferation of fraudulent electronic arrival platforms that take advantage of unsuspecting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other travelers coming to the Philippines.

Binay raised the changes in the travel declaration system being implemented by the government for entering travelers. She noted the fake website that charges inbound passengers $70 in exchange for the e-Arrival Card.

Recently, the DICT launched the “eTravel” portal which serves as a one-stop electronic travel and health declaration system for travelers. Uy said this addresses the varying declaration platforms being used by different government agencies.

“I’m hoping with this new ‘eTravel,’ no more of our countrymen would fall victims and pay [for the arrival cards],” Binay said in mixed English and Filipino.

Sen. Imee Marcos, meanwhile, asked Uy about his preferred system of voting, and according to him, he preferred a hybrid system wherein counting at the precinct level will be done manually and the transmission of results will be automated.

Marcos, who filed Senate Bill No. 1950 or the Hybrid Election Act in the previous Congress, said the proposed system shouldn’t be complicated and will also provide evidence that is unavailable in the current system that is dependent on machines.

During the hearing, the CA also confirmed the ad interim appointments of secretary Renato U. Solidum of the Department of Science and Technology and secretary Raphael Lotilla of the Department of Energy.

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