Zero budget for PCOO? 'Huwag naman po,' says Roque

MANILA, Philippines – There is no reason to call for zero budget for the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Malacañang said on Tuesday, August 7.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque came to the agency's defense following public outrage over PCOO Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson's video of a lewd federalism jingle.

The video was posted on Uson's Facebook page, which she uses in her work as assistant secretary for social media to promote government initiatives.

"Huwag naman po because PCOO is functioning also, it's providing an indispensable role. Kinakailangan natin ang mensahe ng Presidente na makarating sa taong-bayan at 'yan po ang mandato ng PCOO," Roque said in a media forum in Quezon City.

(Please don't [remove the budget] because PCOO is functioning also, it's providing an indispensable role. We need the President's message to get to citizens and that is the mandate of the PCOO.)

Lawmakers and concerned citizens have called for the removal of the PCOO's 2019 budget, citing its much-criticized gaffes since the start of the Duterte administration. (READ: Who's 'Winston' Gatchalian? PCOO makes another online blunder)

Even before the federalism jingle, Uson has been one of the PCOO's most controversial figures.

But Roque said Uson's actions should not determine the fate of the entire department.

"Mocha Uson is not synonymous with PCOO; she is one of the workers of PCOO. PCOO has many workers who quietly do their jobs," Roque said. (READ: It wasn't me: Andanar blames staff for wrong grammar in Malacañang media ID)

The PCOO has asked for a higher budget for 2019 – P1.41 billion or P100 million more than its budget this year.

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin has said the PCOO's budget should be removed as the federalism jingle and dance is "not the first time that the PCOO made a fool of itself." (READ: Netizens ask PCOO: Who is 'Rogelio' Golez? Is he from 'Norwegia'?)

"Simple errors in spelling or grammar are indicators of the huge error in appointing officials who are not up for the task of informing our people accurately, sufficiently, and responsibly. If this is where our taxes go, perhaps it's time to remove its budget and use it for what our people truly need," said the opposition lawmaker, using the hashtag #ZeroBudgetPCOO.

Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, questioned the higher budget requested by the PCOO when other departments which deal with poverty and hunger are set to experience budget cuts. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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