Credit-grabbing never ends.
During the height of typhoon Ompong’s juggernaut last weekend, the government flaunted the “new” command and control center of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) located inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Officially called the NDRRMC’s Intelligent Operations Center (IOC), it is a 600-square meter, 3-level operations center that has a state-of-the-art communications technology providing strong and uninterrupted connectivity.
On September 13, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte presided over a command conference with the members of his Cabinet in the center in preparation for what has been branded as a super typhoon.
As expected, the supporters of the president boasted the existence of the facility making it appear to have been created during the Duterte administration and with zero funds from the government.
Both claims are false.
First, the construction of this command center began in August of 2014 during the administration of former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.
“This is a communications facility. Intelligence would be coming in, information would be coming in,” Voltaire Gazmin said in an interview during the ground-breaking of the center on July 08, 2014. Gazmin is the Secretary of National Defense when Aquino was president.
In the same ground-breaking, then NDRRMC chief and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator, Usec. Alexander Pama, said that the new operations center will enhance the communications capability of the NDRRMC.
“Its capabilities would be in communications and information technology using satellite communications with real-time video, voice, and data transmission. There would be a media lounge for instantaneous dissemination for the citizens,” Pama said.
The center was placed in a spotlight during the September 13, 2018 conference because it was only the first time that the president and his official family held a conference in that place since it became fully operational sometime in 2017.
Although the construction of the building and facility started way back in 2014, it was completed only in 2017. Despite completion, its full-blown operational use as a “command center” were delayed for several more months in order to give time for the integration and fine-tuning of the advanced communications systems.
Secondly, contrary to claims that not a single centavo from the public coffers were used in the construction of the center, the Aquino administration actually allotted public money to fund this initiative.
Pama, a retired Philippine Navy Vice Admiral, used social media in order to make a clarification.
In a Facebook post, the former NDRRMC executive director said the Aquino government appropriated 60 million from the 2015 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the NDRRMC facility.
“The DPWH provided 60 million pesos from its 2015 budget to build this. I should know as it was during my tenure as the OCD Administrator when this was designed and built,” Pama wrote.
Thus, while it is true that there were donors from the private entities who helped in realizing this initiative like the SMS Global Technologies Inc. who provided technological equipment, the primary source of funding the project still came from the public treasury.
In the era of political propaganda and disinformation, it is a good thing that Pama came out in the open to set the record straight. Not only to give credit to whom credit is due but more importantly to expose fake news.
In the words of Usec. Pama, “Fact check please!”