As it deals with controversies, technology giant Huawei continues to broaden its presence in the Philippines, tapping the anti-cybercrime team of the country’s national police as a partner.
The China-based communications equipment provider was the biggest sponsor during the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG)’s 6th National Anti-Cyber Crime Summit held last month – from March 26 to 28.
This was confirmed to Rappler by PNP ACG chief Brigadier General Marni Marcos, and ACG spokesman and anti-financial crime chief Captain Jun Cinco.
“Huawei was our platinum sponsor during the event..Isa sa mga highest amount, isa sila sa may malaking tinulong during that summit (They are one of the highest contributors, they are one of those who contributed big help during the summit),” Cinco told Rappler in a phone interview on Wednesday, April 24.
In fact, Huawei was named as the summit’s sole “platinum sponsor.” Stage backdrops, banners, and program were pasted with the Huawei logo above US-based Diamond sponsors Microsoft, and Fortinet and Gold Premium sponsor Forcepoint.
Huawei’s presence and sponsorship of a PNP event came amid questions about its ties with the Chinese government and other privacy-related concerns. (READ: Huawei founder denies spying for China in rare interview)
What the PNP got
Marcos told Rappler that Huawei gained platinum sponsorship status after sending two resource persons to the summit and partially funding the ACG’s anniversary magazine.
The cybercrime summit is held every year, coinciding with the founding of the PNP ACG, which used to be a sub-unit of the powerful Criminal Investigation and Detection Group up until 2013.
“In ACG, we welcome all collaboration with other countries, because cybercrime is borderless,” Marcos said. (READ: Global cybercrime costs $600 billion annually – study)
This is not the first engagement the Philippine government has with Huawei.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government is in talks with Huawei and China Telecom about Safe Philippines Project, a 12,000-camera surveillance system project that seeks “efficient management of public order, security and safety” in the Philippines.
The partnership is seen as in line with the Duterte administration’s pivot to China. (TIMELINE: Philippines-China relationship under Duterte)
Help in combating cyber crime
Marcos said Huawei’s help was much appreciated because cybercrime has been on the rise. In 2018 alone, cybercrime incidents increased by 80%, based on ACG’s numbers.
The anti-cybercrime chief acknowledged that Huawei is at odds with the Philippines' longtime ally, the United States, as well as other tech-pioneering countries. But he stressed that pending formal complaints against Huawei, the PNP is free to partner with it.
“We only base [our actions] on evidence, facts, and anything gathered as law enforcers,” Marcos said.
The PNP ACG, according to Cinco, has not received any equipment from the Chinese tech giant. Instead, he said, they have been beneficiaries of Huawei’s “expertise” and “technical assistance."
“I can categorically say that we don’t have Huawei equipment now...Neither procured nor donated,” Marcos said.
Several countries have expressed concern over using Huawei equipment, with many fearing that cooperating with the tech giant can be an open window for China’s intrusive security apparatus. (READ: European telecoms' dilemma: Huawei or the highway?)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also warned the Philippines of the risks it may face in partnering with Huawei, adding that it cannot be trusted. (READ: Pompeo warns PH of 'security risks' posed by Huawei)
"We believe that competition, whether it's in 5G or some other technology, ought to be open, free, transparent, and we worry that Huawei is not that," he said during a press conference in Manila last March 2019.
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.