Military chief defends AFP-Dito Telecom deal

OUTGOING Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Benjamin Madrigal defended the agreement that he signed with Dito Telecommunication Corporation (DTC), saying this was above board.

The agreement allows Dito to use AFP-owned towers as their cell sites and set up equipment and facilities within military facilities.

Madrigal, who is due to retire on September 28, said he is ready to face an investigation.

“Nakikilagay ng cell site ang Globe at Smart (sa towers ng AFP) ang request nila makikilagay rin sila (DTC), kung hindi mo naman papayagan yun therefore you are not being fair to these telecommunications companies,” he said in an interview with reporters.

The DTC, led by Davao City-based businessman Dennis Uy, is the former Mislatel Consortium which is composed of Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp., Udenna Corporation and Chinese state-owned company China Telecommunications Corporation.

Under the memorandum of agreement, the telecommunications company, just like Globe and Smart, may use the AFP towers erected outside several military camps in the country which also serve as relay stations for military.

Earlier, the military clarified that the DTC will not set up its equipment inside the military camps but on mountains or elevated areas near the military facilities.

AFP public affairs office chief Colonel Noel Detoyatao said these are traditional sites for relay stations and other communications equipment to ensure the efficient propagation of signals.

Critics have hit the agreement with DTC, saying the facilities may be used by China for spying.

Senator Risa Hontiveros earlier filed a resolution pushing for the conduct of investigation on the deal.

Madrigal, however, noted that the military has taken security measures to ensure that the deal is not disadvantageous for the AFP and that it passed the scrutiny of the military’s intelligence, legal and communications division.

“Before they won dumaan sa National Telecommunication Commission. All these security measure have been undertaken. We in the military also undertake our due diligence specially security... Personally ‘yung kasing thinking natin nagko-connect sa ibang incident lagi sa takot sa bagay na hindi alam o ‘yung fear of the unknown,” he said.

Meanwhile, Madrigal clarified that he did not bypass Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana when he signed the deal.

He explained that based on procedure, he has to sign it first before sending it to the DND chief for approval.

“I cannot do that. Maraming kaming pinipirmahan na MOA (memorandum of agreement), mga donations, partnership, may related sa education, sa health. I sign it first before the Secretary signs it," he said.

Madrigal said it will be on the DND secretary's discretion to cancel or revoke the memorandum of agreement.

It was earlier reported that Lorenzana was not informed of the deal but Madrigal claimed the secretary was misquoted.

“Accordingly, he was misquoted. Ang pagkasabi daw niya he was not informed yet because he’s out of the country and naturally... ‘Yun kasi ang proseso natin - the MOAs will have to be approved by the SND, but before the Secretary of Defense signs the MOA, I have to sign it bago ‘yun umakyat kay SND," he said.

Lorenzana earlier said he will “scrutinize” the agreement before approving it. (SunStar Philippines)


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