The recent hacking of the database of Filipino voters is a wake-up call to urgently establish the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), said Senator Ralph Recto in a press statement last Saturday (23 April 2016).
According to Recto, who is the principal sponsor of the Congress-approved bill to create DICT, there is currently no designated body to protect the country's infrastructure in the government. He also noted the small number of cybercrime personnel against the number of social media users in the Philippines.
Recto cited the case of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG), which only have 110 personnel even though there are "70 million [Filipinos] with social media presence."
"What we have is a Balkanised system. Personnel investigating cybercrimes are so few and, worse, dispersed among government offices despite the increasing volume of transactions in all kinds of commerce being done online," he added.
Recto stated the growing menace of cybercrime and the jobs the ICT industry can bring should prod the congressional and executive leaders to work together for the immediate enactment of the bill and implement it on-time.
The Senate and the House of Representative passed their own version of the DICT bill last year, with minor differences. The Senate accepted the House version, before if adjourned for the campaign season last month, to avoid convening a bicameral conference.
Recto elaborated the DICT bill mandates the creation of a "Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Centre". The ICT department will be tasked to formulate a "National Cybersecurity Plan" and establish a "National Computer Emergency Response Team" which will serve as the country's "IT Special Action Forces."
In addition, the DICT will also be tasked to "work on international cooperation on intelligence regarding cybersecurity" to help firewalling the country from cyberattacks. Recto said the DICT should also be part of the national security plan since people now live in an era "when terrorists don't have to blast bank doors to do mayhem; but simply unleash a virus that could shred or suck out financial data."
Lastly, the DICT will also have the power to identify and prioritise all e-government systems and applications as well as formulate policies and initiatives to develop and promote ICT in education sector and promote consumer rights to a reliable broadband service.
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