Mocha Uson’s absence defers House debates on PCOO’s 2019 budget

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives once again deferred plenary deliberations on the proposed budget of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) for 2019 because Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson was still absent.

“The PCOO budget debates will be deferred. But the other attached agencies will be tackled today. The PCOO's budget deliberations will be deferred until Mocha comes,” Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay Jr told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino on the sidelines of the plenary debates on Tuesday, October 2.

This is the second time the House had deferred deliberating on the PCOO’s proposed P1.41 billion budget for 2019 because of Uson’s absence. 

At around 1 am on September 25, ACT Teachers Representative France Castro moved to defer the debates on the PCOO’s budget because Uson was not there.  

Uson was out of the country then to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the United States.

Lawmakers peeved at Uson, PCOO

The House then rescheduled the PCOO’s budget debates to Tuesday, but Uson was still absent.

Castro inquired where Uson was. Parañaque City 1st District Representative Eric Olivarez, who was sponsoring the PCOO’s budget, said she was still “in transit” from New York back to the Philippines and is set to arrive in Manila on Wednesday, October 3.  

Olivarez also said PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar had sent letters to Uson asking her to come home and attend the House’s plenary debates on the budget, but she did not respond.  

The session was immediately suspended. A visibly peeved Pichay was then seen in a huddle with Castro, Andanar, other lawmakers, and PCOO officials.

"Bakit sinabi 'nyo na'ndito na [pero] ayaw pumunta dito? 'Yon ang sinabi ninyong lahat eh! So which one is which?" Pichay told the PCOO officials. (Why did you say she's already here [in the country] but she just didn't want to come here? That's what all if you told us!)

A PCOO official then reiterated Olivarez's statement that Uson was still flying back to Manila.

“What airline? You have to get that,” Pichay said.

Bagong Henerasyon Representative Bernadette Herrera Dy also told the officials to check with the Department of Foreign Affairs. 

It was during this huddle that the lawmakers decided to defer the debates on the PCOO budget once again.

Both the House majority and minority blocs already terminated their interpellation of the proposed budgets of the PCOO's attached agencies on Monday, except for the PCOO itself.

Controversy after controversy

Uson is notorious for spreading false information online. (READ: Mocha Uson: Fake news victim or fake news peddler?

She and blogger Drew Olivar were recently under fire over their controversial Facebook video on federalism, where Olivar was seen singing "I-pepe" and "I-dede" while dancing and gesturing to his crotch and chest areas. He then yelled "I-pederalismo" at the end of the number. 

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin and Senator Grace Poe then called for a zero budget for PCOO, arguing that the controversial federalism video was “not the first time that the PCOO made a fool of itself.” 

The PCOO has been hounded by several gaffes in the past, with mistakes ranging from wrong grammar to using "Norwegia" to refer to Norway.

After the offensive federalism video, Olivar figured in another controversy, in a video with Uson, where she made fun of sign language. – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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