MANILA — Senators on Wednesday urged Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson to draw the line between her professional and personal statements noting that this is a sacrifice she needed to make as a government official.
“Dapat alam mo (You should know) what you can and cannot do,” Senator Antonio Trillanes IV told Uson during the Senate hearing on fake news led by Senator Grace Poe.
Trillanes made this point when the issue of Uson’s blog and Facebook page was brought up. Her blog, Mocha Uson Blog, has been criticized by the public for posting unverified statements, articles, and photos and later tagged as fake news.
Uson, a staunch ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, is known for sharing and posting articles that are pro-administration.
“Wala ka nang personal na opinion being a public official at the PCOO [Presidential Communications Operations Office] (You no longer have a personal opinion being a public official at the PCOO),” he added.
Uson, however, explained that her blog reflects her own views and not of the administration.
“Hindi ako aware na wala na akong karapatang ipahayag ang sarili kapag ikaw ay government official na (I’m not aware that I no longer have right to express myself once you become a government official),” Uson said.
The Senator, however, insisted that as PCOO Assistant Secretary, the nature of her job was to communicate the official line of the government.
Trillanes said while Uson was allowed to run a personal blog, she should avoid spreading misinformation and denying it afterward.
“Kung gagamitin mo yung blog to promote the Duterte, defend Duterte or explain his policies, by all means, gamitin mo. Pero ang ayaw namin dito is gagamitin mo yung medium na ‘yan to spread misinformation tapos may deniability na hindi yan government kasi personal mo (If you want to use your blog to promote Duterte, defend Duterte or explain his policies, by all means, use it. But what we don’t accept here is when you use that medium to spread misinformation and then say it’s not the government opinion because it’s your personal opinion),” Trillanes said.
Senator Nancy Binay, like Trillanes, said that Uson needed to choose between being a blogger and being a public official.
“We cannot use the excuse of doing things in her capacity as a private individual. At this point in time, hindi mo pwede ihiwalay ang pagiging Asec mo sa pagiging blogger mo (You cannot separate your being an Asec from being a blogger),” Binay said.
Poe added that Uson needed to “let go” of her personal opinions as a PCOO official because it is good as speaking on behalf of the administration.
Trillanes, meanwhile, told Uson that because she has a strong influence to the public with over five million followers, she should use it in a “positive way” and be a “good influence” to those who followed her.
Uson, for her part, said that she would take into consideration all of Trillanes’ suggestions.
“Kung naiwan ko yung propesyon ko sa entertainment — yung pagsasayaw ko para manilbihan sa bayan, I will consider his suggestion sa approach sa pagba-blog kung makakabuti po ito para sa bayan (If I was able to leave my profession in the entertainment industry — dancing –to serve the public, I will consider his suggestion if it’s going to help be better serve the public.”)
After the hearing, Uson approached Trillanes to have her photo taken with him.
Trillanes and Uson also had a friendly exchange before the senator began asking the assistant secretary questions.
“Ang guwapo niyo pala, Senator Trillanes. Hindi fake news ‘yan (You’re really handsome, Senator Trillanes. That’s not fake news),” Uson said.
The senator replied by saying: “Konting bola na at baka iatras ko na ang kaso (Compliment me a bit more and I might just withdraw the case).”
On September 22, Trillanes IV filed before the Office of the Ombudsman libel charges under the Cyber Crime Prevention Act; violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; and graft.
The complaint stemmed from Uson’s posting on her Facebook page of “images and links to what appears to be a number of uniform computer-printed documents purportedly being offered to prove that the undersigned had numerous bank accounts in foreign banks, which purportedly constitutes his ‘tagong yaman’ (hidden wealth).” (PNA)