MANILA, Philippines – Senators raised this issue against Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, with Senator Nancy Binay saying the battle against fake news is difficult because of the dancer turned government official.
The topic was discussed on Wednesday, September 20, during the Senate hearing on the proposed P1.35 billion of the Presidential Communications Operations Office for 2018.
“I would have wanted Secretary Uson to answer some questions,” Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said.
Uson, a staunch supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, has been repeatedly spreading fake information on her social media account.
Andanar said Uson is in New York with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who is attending the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Responding to issues against Uson, Andanar said she told him that her Facebook page is her own and does not reflect the views of the PCOO.
“With the issue kay Asec Mocha Uson, nagkaroon po kami ng agreement, actually siya mismo nagsabi na ang kanyang Facebook page ay sa kanya lamang at kung anong sasabihin niya ay kanyang sariling opinyon at di po ito reflective sa PCOO. She really insists ganoon po magiging sistema," Andanar told senators. (With the issue against Asec Mocha Uson, we had an agreement. Actually, she was the one who told me that her Facebook page is her own and whatever she says there is her own opinion and is not reflective of the PCOO. She really insists that the system should be like that.)
“But there’s also a debate, Mr Chair. If you're a political appointee, do you stop being political? We all know that Asec Mocha Uson is one of the staunch allies who would fight tooth and nail for the President,” he added.
Andanar defended Uson and said she still enjoyed the support of the President despite the bashing. Case in point, he said, is Uson’s frequent travels with the President especially to “sensitive places” like Marawi City.
“Kahit na po maraming puna kaya Asec Mocha, literal binabash siya at meron ng mga #firemocha na lumalabas, she still continues to fly with the President wherever he goes, especially in sensitive places. So that goes to show Asec Mocha enjoys the trust and the confidence of the President,” Andanar said.
Senator Nancy Binay then directly told Andanar that PCOO's main problem in fighting fake news is Uson.
“Ang hirap i-separate ng Mocha private citizen and Mocha the Asec, lalong lalo na… I mean how can you, Secretary Andanar, fight fake news kung may instances na nanggagaling mismo sa isang Asec yung fake news? So I guess yun yung nagiging dilemma mo, how would you balance things,” Binay said. (It is hard to separate the Mocha as private citizen and Mocha the Asec. I mean how can you, Secretary Andanar, fight fake news if there are instances where the Asec is the one spreading fake news? So I guess that's your dilemma, how would you balance things.)
Andanar then thanked the senators for their "reminders."
Uson has repeatedly criticized journalists by calling them "presstitutes," or journalists paid to write biased and inaccurate news.
In August, she posted a story about a killed cop and used it to hit members of the opposition for supposedly using for propaganda the death of 17-year-old Kian Lloyd delos Santos in the hands of the police. It turned out that the story was published over a year ago.
Uson, together with other pro-administration groups and personalities, recently posted details of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV's alleged offshore bank accounts. Trillanes disproved owning 2 bank accounts in Singapore by personally going to that country.
President Duterte later on admitted that he just "invented" those bank account numbers as "bait." – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org