House panel recommends charges vs. Rio over free internet project

A House of Representatives panel has recommended the filing of criminal charges against former Department of Information and Communications (DICT) undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. over the alleged irregularities in the government’s Free Public Internet Access Program (FPIAP).

In its report released to media on Tuesday, the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability recommends the filing of charges against Rio for violating Section 3 of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) regarding the implementation of the FPIAP.

According to the panel, the DICT committed non-feasance when it transferred the management of and funds for the Pipol Konek Project, which is a part of the government’s free internet program, to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

It noted that the DICT-UNDP Pipol Konek Project failed to complete the 6,000 sites at targeted locations and provide free Wi-fi internet access during the period agreed upon and even after the deadlines were extended.

“After three hearings and almost five months of deliberations and committee report preparation, I am proud to report to our countrymen that we have recommended filing charges against former DICT Secretary Eliseo Rio for his negligence in entering with agreements with UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and for poor implementation of the project failure to look out for best interest of the Filipino people,” Committee Chairperson Michael Aglipay said.

The report said the DICT committed misfeasance when it entered into the financing agreement with the UNDP for the project when the DICT could have resorted to procurement on its own as it did with the other suppliers for the implementation of the FPIAP.

The panel said among the causes of delay in the project was the lack of meticulous planning coupled with ineffective coordination with concerned local government units, private suppliers, and service providers; challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic; and problems encountered during validation of target sites for the project, among others.

Aglipay said the Filipinos deserve free reliable internet, especially for public school students learning from home.

“This project was a great concept but sadly plagued by negligence that made our countrymen suffer,” he said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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