Pangilinan raises espionage, data privacy questions at DND budget hearing

MANILA – Minority Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Wednesday raised espionage and data privacy questions on the entry of third telco Dito Telecommunity Corp., a consortium which includes a China-owned company, into Philippine military camps.

“Under their Counter-Espionage Law of 2014 (CEL) and Chinese National Intelligence Law of 2017 (CNIL) the Chinese governmnet lays down instances wherein its citizens and organizations can be mobilized in support of espionage activities as well as information and intelligence gathering,” he said.

“We are also concerned about personal information of our kababayans. Again this is information communication technology. We do hope that before an approval is made, there is serious assessment regarding putting safeguards in place to ensure that the personal information of those using this telco will be protected, that there would be no breach,” he added.

At the plenary budget hearing of the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Pangilinan asked the defense establishment about the co-location memorandum of agreement.

Pangilinan quoted provisions of the Chinese laws:

· Article 7 of the CNIL which requires “any organization or citizen to support, assist, and cooperate with state intelligence work.”

· Article 14 of the CNIL authorizes the State Intelligence Work Organization to “require relevant organs, organizations, and citizens to provide necessary support, assistance, and cooperation.”

· Article 22 of CEL, meanwhile, states: “when state security organs investigate to learn of espionage conduct or gather relevant evidence, relevant organizations and individuals shall truthfully provide and must not refuse.”

Pangilinan stressed that the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces must guard against the possible ramifications of the provisions of the said laws on our national security.

“Precisely, China Telco is a state-owned company. Their law says that authorities can mobilize individuals or organizations to carry-out espionage. That being the case therefore, there is really a need to ensure that we have the highest safeguards or measures of security in place with respect to this particular memorandum of agreement,” he said.

“We would like to enter this with our eyes wide open,” he added.

Five Eyes

Pangilinan also sought Defense Secretary Lorenzana’s position on the banning of the use of Chinese company Huawei by the members of the Five Eyes. Five Eyes is the intelligence alliance involving Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

“While Huawei is not involved directly in this memorandum of agreement, China Telecom is somehow involved because it is the China Telecom that is in partnership with Dito. China Telecom, unlike Huawei is a state-owned company. We are concerned about precisely the involvement of China Telecom,” Pangilinan said.

The senator also asked if the DND and the AFP have personnel that can read, write, and understand Chinese and computer languages so that they can effectively monitor IT activities that may compromise the national interest

Formerly Mislatel, Dito is a consortium of Davao businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corporation and its subsidiary Chelsea Logistics Corporation, and Chinese state-owned China Telecommunications Corporation, a parent company of China Telecom.

The agreement was signed September 11 by Dito and military officials. Lorenzana, who was present at the Senate budget plenary, is waiting for inputs from the Senate before he himself signs the agreement.

Earlier, Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. raised national security concerns involving China.

Pointing to the proximity of POGO (Philippine offshore gaming operators) offices to military camps, Lorenzana said these POGOs, which employ Chinese nationals, may shift their operations to spying.

For his part, Esperon admitted that he considers the influx of hundreds of thousands of Chinese nationals in the country a national security threat.