Recent Twitter mishaps by officials: Be careful

MANILA, Philippines – With government officials now using Twitter, there is more space to discuss issues that matter to their constituents. Public servants, however, have not used the platform effectively all the time. Some have even confronted netizens crudely. Others tweet too much.

What happens when public officials mistweet and overtweet? Here are recent incidents and resulting events.

1. Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr (@teddyboylocsin)

After pronouncing on Twitter that a "previous outsourced passport maker took all the data" on passports, Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr sparked a national debate on the platform and beyond. (READ: Ex-DFA contractor ‘took off’ with passport data, says Locsin)

Screengrabbed from Twitter

Asked how the DFA could be sure that passport holders' personal information is protected, Locsin tweeted, "I don't know."

When news organizations picked up his tweet about the alleged data loss, Locsin took to Twitter to clarify who was behind the mess, saying the blame should be on the Arroyo and Aquino administrations.

Screengrabbed from Twitter
Screengrabbed from Twitter

Locsin also consistently blamed the "Yellows" for the alleged data loss. (READ: Locsin blames 'Yellows' for passport data loss)

The Philippine National Police (PNP) tagged the passport data loss as a "national security threat." A Senate probe was even sought.

The present contractor, APO Production Unit Inc (APUI), however said that "DFA officers have full access to data from old green passports, machine-readable passports, as well as the current e-passports." They added that equipment was turned over by the previous contractor, Oberthur, which Locsin said had "made off" with passport data.

Former foreign secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr also refuted the claim that there was data loss, saying that Locsin must have been "misinformed." (READ: Yasay refutes Locsin, says passport data not stolen)

While saying now that there is no runaway of data, Locsin insisted on Twitter that some of the data turned over to APO is "unusable."

Screengrabbed from Twitter

As he continued to engage Twitter users regarding the alleged data loss, Locsin simultaneously tweeted about ending the birth certificate requirement for passport renewal.

He said, however, that the "probe on the passport mess continues" and that he would only "accept as conclusive" the findings of a Senate investigation.

2. Senator Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian (@stgatchalian)

Senator Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian met the start of 2018 with comments from a handful of disappointed netizens.

Their tweets came after the senator responded with "Ulol (moron)" to a tweet critical of him. He sent this with his personal account. 

Screengrab from Twitter

Twitter users responded with comments calling Gatchalian a "trapo" (traditional politician) and describing his tweet as unbecoming of a senator. His response: "Gago ka!" (You're stupid!).

Asked why he used such language to respond to comments on Twitter, he said he got pissed. (READ: Gatchalian blames bashers for his meltdown on Twitter)

Screengrab from Twitter

3. Senator Sonny Angara (@sonnyangara)

Netizens were not amused when Senator Sonny Angara referred to fellow senator Nancy Binay as "Chocolate" in a tweet during a Senate hearing on fake news. Former Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson was present in the said hearing, which was held in October 2017.

Screengrab from Twitter

Angara defended his tweet by saying that it was just banter between friends. 

Screengrab from Twitter

However, Twitter users said that it was still unbecoming of a public official and that such banter could be done in private, not on a public platform like Twitter.

Social media use for government

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) released in early 2018 a draft policy on how government officials and employees should behave on social media.

In the draft administrative order (AO), the DICT blacklists the following, among others: "malicious content that aims to discredit an entity [or] office or a government representative without basis" and "unrelated information, jokes, or promotions that are personal and not of value to the agency."

The draft AO, however, does not compel Congress to follow the rules. But it does state that the order shall apply to national government agencies.

The draft does not mention rules on personal accounts. –