RJ Jacinto replaces Rio in DICT

Pia Ranada
RJ Jacinto replaces Rio in DICT
The Duterte adviser is pushing for a common cell tower policy which Eliseo Rio Jr criticized as being 'anti-competitive' and in violation of telco franchises

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed his adviser on information and communications technology, Ramon “RJ” Jacinto, to take the place of Eliseo Rio Jr at the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

A copy of the letter to Secretary Gregorio Honasan II about Jacinto’s appointment was obtained by Rappler on Tuesday, May 26. The appointment was confirmed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

He also told Rappler that Jacinto will only serve as DICT undersecretary, and no longer presidential adviser.

Dated May 22, it states Jacinto has been given the post of DICT undersecretary “co-terminus with the appointing authority.” The letter was signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

 

The letter’s date is the same date of Malacañang’s announcement that President Rodrigo Duterte had accepted Eliseo Rio Jr’s resignation.

Rio himself said he was “caught by surprise” by Duterte’s decision since he had sent his resignation almost 4 months ago, on January 31. 

Rio had even been given a critical role in two major DICT programs – the free Wi-Fi program and National Broadband Program – after the letter. The former DICT official had not retracted the offer to resign.

Clash in common cell tower proposal

Jacinto is more famously known as a musician and entrepreneur who founded rock-and-roll radio station, DZRJ, and other businesses in the music industry, including guitar-making company RJ Guitars and the music lounge and restaurant, Bistro RJ in Makati.

In July 2016, Duterte made him Presidential Adviser on Economic Affairs and ICT, with the rank of undersecretary.

He and Rio, a retired brigadier general who had served as Duterte’s acting DICT secretary, had clashed on a common cell tower proposal. 

Jacinto, through a Memorandum Circular, is pushing for a policy that will allow only two independent tower companies to build and share their towers for use of Globe and PLDT, as well as 3rd telco player Dito Telecommunity. 

Rio had criticized the proposal as “anti-competitive” and said it would “surely be challenged by telcos in court because it potentially violates” their legislative franchise, which allows them to build their own infrastructure.

He said a legislative franchise has an effect of a law and it could only be amended by another law, not a mere circular.

Rio’s concerns where echoed by Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services.

But Jacinto said he had the backing of President Rodrigo Duterte himself and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

In a statement addressing Rio’s criticisms, Jacinto said Duterte had told Rio, when he was acting secretary, not to allow impediments to the government’s efforts to streamline telco services, even if it means lawsuits from telco players.

Jacinto was a vocal Duterte supporter during the May 2016 presidential elections. He hosted events for Duterte supporters in his restaurant and even composed a song for Duterte. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.