Screenshot from Mocha Uson's Facebook page
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte does not think much about the controversy sparked by the lewd federalism jingle Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson posted about.
"The President was very cool about it. He’s a believer in freedom of expression...To him, it was not really a big thing," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Tuesday, August 7, during a Malacañang press briefing.
Duterte has often cited "freedom of expression" to defend Uson's controversial posts or remarks.
"He found it an unconventional way to get the people's interest into federalism. In a way, everyone's talking about federalism, probably not in the way we want to talk about federalism," said Roque.
The spokesman said Duterte expressed these views during a private meeting with Roque, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
Uson's video was not the main topic of the meeting but the issue was brought up in the course of the discussions.
However, the President agreed with other officials that a more comprehensive discussion of federalism is necessary for the public to understand the topic.
"He agrees there has to be more substantive discussions on federalism," said Roque.
So far, there appears to be no clear sanction on Uson despite the outrage her video caused, not just among critics of the administration, but even among lawmakers and Consultative Committee members themselves.
When asked if Uson would be facing any sanctions, Roque merely distanced himself.
"I don't have jurisdiction over her. It was her boss Secretary Martin Andanar, who already spoke that she was not authorized to embark on this undertaking," said the President's spokesman.
The previous day, Andanar also could not say if any sanctions await Uson as he was unable to discuss the controversy with her at the time. He, however, managed to "confront" Con-Com spokesman Ding Generoso for supposedly bypassing his authority when he expressed intent to tap Uson for the information campaign.
Duterte has often protected Uson by citing his respect for her right to free speech. This was also his defense of her when she refused to apologize for posting a photo of Ninoy Aquino which offended media personality Kris Aquino. In that instance, it was even Duterte himself who apologized in behalf of Uson.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, a staunch advocate of federalism, wants Uson out of the government federalism info drive. Con-Com member Father Ranhilio Aquino called the jingle, performed by a pro-Duterte blogger inside Malacañang grounds, "vulgar" and "inappropriate".
Uson has been in hot water many times before for spreading inaccurate information and using crude language to hit at the President's critics.
Senator Grace Poe pointed out in a Senate hearing that Uson and her Facebook page are not exempted from the code of ethics for government officials and employees. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.