On May 9, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed known blogger and dancer Margaux ‘Mocha’ Uson as an assistant secretary in the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). According to PCOO Sec. Martin Andanar, Uson will handle the social media accounts of the agency.
Criticisms assailed this decision of the President, especially since Uson has been accused of spreading fake news and misinformation through her social media accounts. Examples of these ‘fake news’ that were posted in her Facebook page Mocha Uson Blog is her citation of Article 263 of the Constitution following a report regarding the tax evasion case against Mighty Corporation. A netizen pointed out that that the 1987 Constitution only has 18 articles.
Another mistake committed by Uson was her questioning the lack of reaction from human right advocates, church officials, and the press on the death and rape of a nine-year old girl ‘allegedly’ due to the drug problem in the Philippines. However, the post was later taken down after it was discovered that the crime happened in Brazil in 2014, two years before the blogger shared it in her Facebook blog.
More than a year later after her appointment, netizens continue to question the decision of the President to place Uson in a government post whose functions include ‘ensuring that accurate information from the President and the Executive Branch is promptly and efficiently relayed, delivered and disseminated to intended target audiences’. People even called for her removal from office due to her controversial actions and posts that persisted even when she became a government official.
USING A PHOTO OF THE HONDURAS POLICE
On May 27, 2017, in the middle of the conflict between Philippine military and Islamic State inspired terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur, Uson requested that the public pray for the government troops, and the families that they left behind, along with a picture of soldiers kneeling and praying.
While there were good intentions behind the post, netizens criticized Uson since the picture from CinEmotion Digital Films showed Honduras policemen, and not the Philippine Army.
In response, Uson pointed out in another Facebook post that she never said that the picture was taken from Marawi, but it’s just ‘a symbol of an army praying’.
“Common sense lang na hindi sa atin iyan kasi may flag sila sa vest nila. Bakit ko ipopost na sa Pilipinas yan eh may flag nga ng ibang bansa. Common sense na it is a symbolism,” the PCOO secretary said in her post.
VISITING THE WAKE OF A SLAIN POLICE
In another post in August 22, 2017, Uson challenged Vice President Leni Robredo, senators Paolo ‘Bam’ Aquino IV, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Risa Hontiveros to visit the wake of S/Insp. Mark Gil Garcia, who was called the best intelligence officer of Rizal province.
The post came after the four personalities visited the wake of 17-year old Kian Delos Santos, who was killed by the police during an operation.
However, Garcia was killed while arresting a drug suspect in August 19, 2016, and his wake happened days after, which was even visited by the President on August 24 that year.
Netizens pointed out that it would be impossible for the vice-president and the senators to also visit the wake of the fallen police since it happened a year ago.
PERFORMANCE IN A CASINO
Last September, netizens once again bashed Uson due to a viral video of her alleged performance with her dance group Mocha Girls at a bar inside Resorts World Casino, Pasay City.
In 2016, Executive Sec. Salvador Medialdea signed Memorandum Circular No. 6 that prohibits government officials from entering casinos.
‘In view of its negative effect on the public perception of government service as a whole, the mere entry or presence of government officials and employees in a gambling casino shall be considered as conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, unless the same was in the performance of official duties and functions,” the memorandum states.
Following the criticisms, Andanar said that Uson has decided to stop performing in casinos.
The PCOO secretary further explained that Uson, upon her request, was allowed to honor her entertainment contracts, as long as they do not violate and are according to the law.
Andanar added that the issue of Uson performing at a casino has been forwarded to the Office of the Executive Secretary since the memorandum was issued by the Executive Secretary, and since Uson is a presidential appointee.
A CLEANED-UP MARAWI
Less than a week after Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi on October 17, Uson praised the government for immediately cleaning 22 towns in the ravaged city, and posted a picture showing a cleaned area.
However, online news organization Rappler said that the post is misleading, and explained that the picture was taken by one of their correspondent, Bobby Lagsa, during the third day of the Marawi Siege, and not after the conflict.
In response, Uson denied that it is her intention to mislead people, and that the photo she used came from an article in the website of Mula sa Masa, Para sa Masa, a government tabloid under the PCOO.
An link of the said article was included in Uson’s first post.
“Wala po tayong intention linlangin ang tao tulad na sinasabi ng Rappler dahil nga ito ay galing sa opisyal na pahayagan ng PCOO. At bilang Assistant Secretary for Social Media ng PCOO ay akin lamang po itong ibinahagi sa Social Media,” Uson said in her Facebook post.
“Kung nagkamali man ang Mula sa Masa, Para Sa Masa akin na po itong sinabi sa pamunuan ng PCOO. Sa kasalukuyan ito po ay tinanggal na ng Mula sa Masa, Para Sa Masa page/blog,” Uson added.
Due to the backlash from the said post, Uson wrote a letter to Andanar requesting that the PCOO investigate the person who uploaded the article in Mula sa Masa, Para Sa Masa, and, if necessary, file an administrative case against him/her.
“I am therefore constrained to inquire with your office, as the appointing authority of the said unnamed person to conduct an investigation on the same, discover the name and designation of the person responsible for the offending picture and if the evidence warrants, initiate the appropriate administrative case against the said unnamed person,” the assistant secretary said in her letter.
QUOTING CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU DURING THE ASEAN SUMMIT
On November 15, Uson was once again lambasted for sharing another post.
The PCOO official shared a post from another Facebook blog Thinking Pinoy that criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his alleged statements regarding the garbage from Canada that was thrown to the Philippines.
R.J. Nieto, the person that manages Thinking Pinoy, based his reaction on an article by the newspaper Manila Times that quoted Trudeau as saying ‘we have legal barriers and restrictions that prevented us from being able to take it back. Those regulations and those impediments have not been addressed. So, theoretically it is impossible to get it back’.
Trudeau allegedly made the statement while visiting the Philippine during the 31 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit that ran from November 10-14.
However, Times misquoted Trudeau, since official transcripts, and other new agencies quoted him as saying ‘even though it originally came from Canada, we had legal barriers and restrictions that prevented us from being able to take it back. Those regulations and those impediments have now been addressed, so it is now theoretically possible to get it back’.
For sharing a post misquoting Trudeau, the Center For Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) hit Uson, pointing out that she is a government official involved in public communications.
“She is a public official, earning a salary that is drawn from taxes paid by ordinary wage earners. And this may be news to the many desiring the power of public office; they are bound by moral standards, truth telling as well as honest and fair dealing,” the CMFR said in a statement
“So what she says or writes should stand the test of quality, relevance and substance, and be scored for the sad lack thereof. This goes for everything that the Presidential Communications Operations Office does,” the CMFR added.
MAYON VOLCANO IN NAGA
On January 25, Uson streamed a live video in which she assailed her critics for using the Thomasian Alumni for Government Service award given to her by the the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association to cover-up other important issues including the controversial anti-dengue Dengvaxia, the alleged bribes given by pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles, and the predicted eruption of Mt. Mayon.
Netizens were quick to criticize the video after Uson made the mistake of saying the Mt. Mayon is in Naga, Camarines Sur. This is even if news outlets have reported that Mt. Mayon is in the Albay region.
Due to her mistake, pictures of Mt. Mayon moving to Naga went viral in social media, while some personalities also took a swipe in the mistake of Uson.
Among them was Enchong Dee, an actor from Naga City, who said that he will go home to his province due to their new volcano. While international singer Lea Salonga said in her Twitter account ‘ with all due respect, we can’t change geography. That’s all’.
In another live video, Uson apologized for her mistake, but also assailed her critics again for using her blunder to cover up other issues.
“Pasensya na po, inaamin ko po na nagkamali ako, okay, pasensya na po, ayan, at nakakatawa, napakaliit na issue, ginagawang headline, ginagawang national news, trending, pero pagdating sa Dengvaxia, tahimik kayo,” Uson said.
“Yung simpleng pagkakamali ko, na hindi naman maaapektuhan ang ekonomiya ng Pilipinas o ang seguridad ng bansa natin, grabe kayo kung makapanghusga,” Uson added.
IS EDSA A PRODUCT OF FAKE NEWS?
‘Naniniwala ba kayo na ang 1986 EDSA People Power ay isang produkto ng fake news?‘
This was the question asked by Uson in her online poll during the Philippines commemoration of the historical revolution that ended the reign of late President Ferdinand Marcos last 1986.
About 62,000 people responded on the poll last February 25, and 84% of the respondents said that the 1986 EDSA Revolution is a product of fake news.
In response to the poll, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that People Power Revolution was not a product of fake news, and the government recognizes its significance.
“Well, according to the law, it is not fake news. According to the law, we honor the EDSA Revolution having declared it as a public holiday. We even have appropriate funds to commemorate the event,” Roque said during a press briefing in the Malacanang on February 26.
“So we still recognize and we will always recognize EDSA not only as an important historical event, but it was the first bloodless people power revolution in the whole entire planet earth; and it remains significant,” Roque added.
The most recent issue that caused netizens to criticize Uson is when her co-host in an online show did a dance based on the word ‘Pederalismo’, the tagalog word for Federalism, that was described as lewd.
In a video clip from said online show, Drew Olivar, another blogger, chanted ‘I-pepe’ while holding his crotch, and shouted ‘I-dede’ while touching chest before shouting ‘I-pederalismo’.
‘Pepe’ is known as a Filipino slang for vagina, the female reproductive organ, while ‘dede’ is connected to a women’s breast.
Before the dance went viral, Ding Generoso, spokesperson of the Consultative Committee for Federalism, announced that they will tap the services of Uson for the information drive to spread awareness regarding the shift of the government system.
This dance did not suit the taste of various public officials, particularly supporters of shifting the government system to Federalism, including Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, who said that he is disappointed that ‘the best and the brightest to this government can come up with only that kind of bullsh*t’.
“Di ko lubos akalain na bababuyin pala nila ang kawsa ng pederalismo. Ilayo na si Mocha sa pederalismo. Mag-aral muna siya nang mabuti. Mag-leave muna siya,” Pimentel said.
Public Information Agency Harold Clavite, a fellow PCOO official, advised Uson to issue a public apology, and to take a leave of absence ‘to reconfigure all her all her strategies putting into consideration the code of conduct and ethical standards that all public officials should adhere to’.
“I have served alongside PCOO and all its attached agencies under the good leadership of Secretary Martin Andanar, and as far as I’m concerned, Ms. Uson’s actions since her appointment have time and again proven to be in poor taste – a display of an utter lack of judgment and have maligned our profession as government communicators,” Clavite said in a Facebook post.
While, Roque said that the President did not laugh but seemed ‘cool’ when he learned about the controversial dance shown by Uson.
In response to the backlash she received, Uson clarified that the video is not part of the campaign to increase awareness regarding Federalism, and that is was before she met with the consultative committee and the Department of Interior and Local Government for the information drive.
The PCOO official also clarified that she was never the spokesperson or the ambassadress for the shift to federalism.