MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A claim by Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary for New Media Lorraine Badoy that Vice President Leni Robredo is a purveyor of fake news sparked a debate during the Senate hearing on disinformation on Tuesday, January 30.
"In fact, the Vice President is one of the primary purveyors of fake news. The President is maybe an even bigger victim that she is," Badoy said during the hearing.
Badoy protested how Robredo allegedly painted a gloomy picture of the country to the international community.
But is it the official government line to accuse Robredo as purveyor of fake news? It is not, Badoy said.
"It's my personal opinion," Badoy acknowledged after she was confronted by other resource speakers to clarify her statement.
Badoy made the claim against Robredo as she protested the direction of the Senate hearing, which at the time was focused on the responsibility of the PCOO in making sure that government employees are bound by ethical standards when they post online.
"I've been bothered by the tone and direction of this talk right now. Just to make it very clear, all these misinformation do not come exlusively from the Duterte camp. Neither do they come from officals that are identified with the government," Badoy said.
It was blogger Tonyo Cruz who demanded that Badoy clarify if her allegation against Robredo is the official government line.
Cruz was supported by Interaksyon editor-in-chief Roby Alampay, who said the question "brings us to the crux of why we are here." Alampay said it's "untenable" to have public officials who invoke private positions when they post online.
"There is no such thing as private equity here. Anything you say will be attributed not just to you or your office, but to the government," Alampay said.
Earlier in the hearing, the Senate hearing discussed if Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson should resign from her government post if she wants to keep her private blog.
Poe acknowledged that political camps have been responsible for spreaking fake news, but she highlighted the bigger responsiblity on the part of the government.
"Public officials, by the nature of their functions, should expect public scrutiny the moment they step into office," Poe said.
VP camp responds
In a statement on Wednesday, Robredo's legal adviser Barry Gutierrez clapped back against Badoy.
"If this is the Lorraine Badoy who insisted that a high school class project was an 'LP publication,' and, when corrected, refused to accept her mistake and tried to bully Jillian Robredo and her high school classmates, then I hardly think she is the most credible person to talk about 'fake news,'" said Gutierrez.
"That this person is now in PCOO, though, is a very clear indicator of the kind of work it focuses on these days," he added.
Gutierrez was referring to Badoy's Facebook post in December 2016, when she shared a photo of a magazine printed with the word "Bayani (Hero)" with the Vice President on the cover.
Badoy claimed the magazine was published by LP, which Robredo is chairperson of. But it was merely a school project of the Vice President's daughter Jillian. – with reports from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com