China-funded Dito hires retired colonel as cybersecurity head

China-funded Dito Telecommunity is hiring ex-military men as it faces questions on its commitment to national security.

In their latest announcement, Dito officials said on Thursday, December 10, that retired colonel Roleen del Prado will head the telco's cybersecurity unit.

"I need an expert. The one who was recruited has the credentials. I was with him in the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines). I know his reputation and expertise," said Dito chief technology officer Rodolfo Santiago, a retired general.

Del Prado was promoted to the rank of colonel in 2018. That same year, he finished a master's degree in national security administration, with a silver medal for academic excellence.

Santiago said on Thursday that a "minimum" of 9 ex-soldiers are helping them to beef up security.

"It's part of our commitment to ensure that our network will not be utilized to threaten national security. What else should I do? It's better to have someone from the AFP that I'm sure he will not compromise national security," said Santiago.

In the briefing, Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano expressed confidence in their new recruits.

"These are people who had been sworn to protect our country and for me, why would there even be a shadow of doubt that we will let our national security be compromised?" said Tamano.

Dito has been at the center of controversy involving national security, primarily due to its partnership with state-run China Telecom (ChinaTel).

Dito's deal with the military to build facilities inside camps had sparked concerns given ChinaTel's 38.9% stake in the company and Beijing's aggressive intelligence activities.

Security experts and even former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio cautioned against security risks stemming from the agreement.

Dito repeatedly downplayed these concerns and gave assurances that the firm is "Filipino-run." The telco also invested P1 billion for its cybersecurity solutions supplied by United States firms.

Currently, Dito's franchise is hanging in the balance, as the Senate committee handling the matter would rather wait for the company to deliver on its commitments before approving the franchise for plenary.

Dito has hired RG Manabat & Co as third-party assessor to check whether it could meet its deliverables to the government during the technical audit in January 2021.

Under Dito's certificate of public convenience and necessity, it needs to set up 1,300 towers to cover 37% of the population and achieve a speed of 27 megabits per second.

Dito is also preparing for its commercial rollout in March 2021 and has started working on its stores in select areas in the country. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.

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