Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Though she was in far-away Jordan with President Rodrigo Duterte, Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson became a topic of discussion at the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) budget hearing on Thursday, September 6.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said he saw a "disconnect" with how Uson gets away with controversies related to her work as a government official, yet public coffers fund her salary.
"I'm hearing from the PCOO officials na 'yung mga pinopost niya represents right to freedom of expression kaya pabayaan na natin kasi kanya 'yun eh, but I'm wondering – we’re giving her a salary," Zarate said during the House budget hearing.
(I'm hearing from the PCOO officials that what she posts represent right to freedom of expression so we just let her do it, but I'm wondering – we're giving her a salary.)
The PCOO is asking for a P1.47 billion-budget for 2019, 2.75% higher than its 2018 budget. Uson, meanwhile, gets paid at least P133,454 monthly before taxes. This amount includes her basic salary, allowances, and miscellaneous expenses.
He cited as an example Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, who had to resign when it was found that her department placed advertisements worth P60 million in her brother's TV show aired on PTV.
"Kung naging controversial 'yung, halimbawa DOT, na naging blocktimer sila (Bitag Media Unlimited, Inc) at kumita sila, sa PCOO, ito kabaliktaran. Empleyado ka ng PCOO, binayaran ka ng PCOO but you’re posting all these things sa iyong private website or blog to claim that this is a private expression, I'm not accountable as an official – there's a disconnect doon," said Zarate.
(If it became controversial, for example DOT, it [Bitag Media Unlimited, Inc] became a blocktimer and they made money, it's the opposite at the PCOO. You're an employee of PCOO, you are paid by PCOO, but you're posting all these things in your private website or blog to claim that this is a private expression, I'm not accountable as an official – there's a disconnect there.)
Andanar declines to answer accountability question
Zarate noted that even Duterte said Uson went overboard with her recent video of a lewd federalism jingle posted on her Facebook page, on which she posts photos and videos related to her work as a PCOO official.
"He (Duterte) respects her right to express what she wants but she's no longer a private individual, she's a government employee like all of us here…so there needs to be a certain degree of accountability and transparency on her part," said the lawmaker.
Zarate directed his question to Andanar but the PCOO chief deferred to Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag.
Banaag told Zarate about the memorandum sent to Uson "reminding" her to be careful about her social media posts and the provisions on "professionalism" required of government workers under the code of ethics.
"We aren't just watching what's happening. We are listening and our office is doing something to direct Asec Mocha's office because the mandate of the PCOO is to promote the positive portrayal of women.... We know we are accountable for what we post," said Banaag.
However, the memorandum obtained by media shows it was addressed to all PCOO personnel, not Uson specifically.
8888 complaints about Mocha
PCOO Undersecretary Marvin Gatpayat also revealed that Uson has apparently been the subject of some 8888 hotline complaints. The 8888 hotline was a hotline created by the Office of the President for citizens to directly air grievances against government personnel to Malacañang.
"We received 8888 complaints regarding the posts of Asec Mocha on federalism so we directed them to Asec Mocha and she answered them. She submitted her response to the Office of Secretary Andanar," Gatpayat said in Filipino.
After some "fact-finding," they found that as a presidential appointee, it's only supposedly Duterte who can sanction Uson, claimed Gatpayat.
"The only entity with administrative jurisdiction over Asec Mocha is the Office of the President so we brought the complaints to the Office of the Executive Secretary so they can act on them," he said.
Zarate also pointed out Uson's penchant for badmouthing persons just because they belong to the opposition. – 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 email@example.com.