FAST FACTS: What is the PCOO?
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on May 8 appointed dancer-turned-blogger Mocha Uson as assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), drawing a varied mix of reactions online.
Uson, a staunch defender of the President, will be assistant secretary for social media, a new post created for her in the office responsible for disseminating information about the government's messages and programs. (FAST FACTS: Who is Mocha Uson?)
While past Philippine presidents have long had officials in charge of presidential messaging, the current office was created in September 1986 through Memorandum Order No. 32, signed by former president Corazon Aquino.
Her successors reorganized the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) and modified the information agencies under the executive branch from time to time, with former president Fidel V. Ramos restructuring the OPS in January 1996, and former president Joseph Estrada abolishing the position of presidential spokesperson. Under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, this position was restored.
In 2010, former president Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order No. 4. It reorganized the OPS into the PCOO – in charge of dissemination of the government's messages – and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO), in charge of the messaging.
Under the new Duterte administration, the PCDSPO was folded into the PCOO. It is currently headed by Secretary Martin Andanar, a former newsreader.
Before Andanar, former press secretaries included Herminio Coloma Jr (2010-2016), current chief peace adviser Jesus Dureza (2008-2009), and Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao (2002). So far, a total of 24 post-Marcos regime press secretaries have preceded Andanar.
The PCOO's related agencies include the Philippine Information Agency, News and Information Bureau, People’s Television Network Inc, Bureau of Broadcast Services, and the National Printing Office, among others.
Duties and responsibilities
According to Executive Order No. 4 issued in 2010, the PCOO's functions include the following:
Developing mechanisms for the dissemination of information relating to the policies and achievements of the President and the Executive Branch
Providing the President and the Executive branch access to the people as an alternative to private mass media entities by managing government-owned information dissemination facilities
Maintaining local and international field offices to ensure that accurate information is efficiently relayed to intended target audiences
Supervising the various government agencies involved in information gathering and dissemination
Coordinating and cultivating relations with private media
Managing the President’s official website
Performing other functions as the President may assign from time to time
With the advent of technology, the PCOO also functions as the social media arm of the government for its digital visibility, managing the Facebook page of the President and other social media websites.
As the newly appointed assistant secretary for social media, Uson said she would focus on using the power of social media to reach Filipinos abroad.
But while Uson's supporters lauded the President's move to appoint her, others have questioned the move, pointing out that Uson has been accused of spreading fake news and propaganda in her own social media account. (READ: Photo used by Duterte camp to hit critics taken in Brazil, not PH)
Some have also questioned why a sexy dancer and celebrity blogger was tapped for the role.
But Duterte has dismissed the criticism, saying Uson is “bright and articulate,” also adding that her history as a dancer does not make her incompetent for her role in the PCOO.
He also said that his decision was payment of a "debt of gratitude" for Uson's support for his presidential run. – Timothy Gucilatar and Bianca Ishbelle Bongato/Rappler.com
Timothy Gucilatar and Bianca Ishbelle Bongato are Rappler interns