Dito taps ex-military officials to head security units

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 10) — Dito Telecommunity is counting on the presence of at least nine former military officials to fend off concerns on national security and espionage threats by China through the new telco player.

Dito's chief technology officer Rodolfo Santiago, a former two-star general who served as commandant of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Command and General Staff College, said eight other retired personnel will be running the network's physical and cybersecurity units.

Retired Colonel Roleen Del Prado will head Dito's cybersecurity team –– his expertise even during his stint in the military. "I specifically recruited a full Colonel... Even in other countries, those that have been with the Armed Forces doing cybersecurity are I think the best persons to be utilized for very, very critical cybersecurity requirements," Santiago said.

The former military officials will be working under the watch of Dito Chief Administrative Officer Adel Tamano, with the head of the physical security team also a retired colonel.

Tamano said, "their job description was to protect the territorial integrity of this country –– that is something that's in their DNA, right?" adding that military men will also serve as regional managers.

READ: AFP sees low risk for spying as China-backed Dito set to install cell towers in camps

The fears stem from the fact that billionaire businessman Dennis Uy partnered with China Telecom, a state-run corporation in Beijing, as its partner in running the third telco network provider in the Philippines.

READ: US officially warns China is launching cyberattacks to steal coronavirus research

China has a law that mandates companies to submit information to the state. The mainland is also accused of spying activities, which is crucial given Manila and Beijing's conflicting claims in the West Philippine Sea.

"These men who are working with us, these are people who have been sworn to protect this country," Tamano said. "I just cannot even think why there would even be a shadow of doubt as to why we would ever allow any spying or espionage to be perpetuated by this company."

Last Wednesday, Dito also opened its National Operations and Security Center and invited National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. to inspect the premises.

"We wanted through the NSA to assure the public that first, meron na kaming telecommunications network that will offer our services," Santiago added, stressing anew that Dito will not let itself be a tool for foreign intrusion. "They saw how we are guarding our network from cyber attacks."

Fifteen people form Dito's cybersecurity operations.

Dito executives said they are "confident" of hitting their promised 37% population coverage and an initial internet speed of 27 Mbps during its first-ever technical audit which starts January 7, or two months ahead of their March deadline for commercial rollout.

Santiago said the 27 Mbps pledge will be easily hit through Dito's 4G LTE signals, as it promised to offer "superior 5G" services in the months following the initial rollout.

Tamano explained there will be a maximum 45-day duration for the audit, wherein accounting firm R.G. Manabat & Co. will head out in the field to test the connectivity and internet speeds in various areas where Dito's 1,900 cell towers are located.

Dito will be given a six-month window should the audit reveal the commitments were not hit, Santiago said, as he clarified the market rollout can still proceed by March. This already involved the sale of SIM cards and mobile phone plans to customers.

READ: Dito's franchise hangs in the balance ahead of March rollout

For now, friendly user tests –– which mostly involved Dito and its parent firm Udenna Corp. –– provide a feedback system for possible glitches within the network. A new round of beta tests will involve lawmakers, select government officials, and the media, Tamano said.

Dito was named the third major player in the local telecommunications sector, meant to disrupt the duopoly of Smart and Globe and raise the level of competition and network service quality.

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