MANILA, Philippines – A government-managed Facebook page and a communications official shared another misleading photo of Marawi.
Mocha Uson, an assistant secretary at the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), on Sunday, October 23, posted a photo of a clean and calm Marawi, with a caption saying, "Grabe naman ang bilis naman kumilos ng gobyerno." (Impressive how fast our government works.)
Lagsa also posted on Facebook a photo of the same spot in Marawi City, taken recently.
The source of the photo could have easily been verified using free tools on the web, like Google Images.
In a statement, Uson tried to clear herself of accountability. She said she only took the photo from the Mula sa Masa, Para sa Masa Facebook page. It is a blog named after the tabloid launched last May by her boss, PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar.
"Gusto ko lamang po klaruhin na ang photo na ginamit ko po dito ay galing sa MULA SA MASA, PARA SA MASA PAGE na isa sa mga OPISYAL na pahayagan ng PCOO. Wala po tayong intention linlangin ang tao tulad na sinasabi ng Rappler dahil nga ito ay galing sa OPISYAL NA PAHAYAGAN NG PCOO. At bilang Assistant Secretary for Social Media ng PCOO ay akin lamang po itong ibinahagi sa Social Media," she said.
(I want to clarify that the photo I used was from Mula sa Masa, Para sa Masa Page, which is one of the official accounts of PCOO. We have no intention to mislead the peope like what Rappler said because this is from an official publication of PCOO. As Assistant Secretary for Social Media of PCOO, I merely shared the post on Social Media.)
"Kung nagkamali man ang MULA SA MASA, PARA SA MASA PAGE/BLOG akin na po itong sinabi sa pamunuan ng PCOO. Sa kasalukuyan ito po ay tinanggal na ng MULA SA MASA, PARA SA MASA PAGE/BLOG," she continued.
(If "Mula sa Masa, Para sa Masa" page/blog made a mistake, I already told the PCOO administration about it. At the moment, the post has been taken down from the "Mula sa Masa, Para sa Masa" page/blog.)
Uson, in the comments section of her post, said she thinks it was not the intention of FB page to mislead, and what's important is that it corrected the post.
"Sa akin naman po hindi naman siguro sinasadya ng mga namumuno sa MULA SA MASA, PARA SA MASA ang pagkakamali nila. Importante ay tinama na nila ito."
(I think mistake of the head of "Mula sa Masa, Para sa Masa" was not intentional. What's important is they corrected it.)
As of writing, the Facebook page has taken down the photo but not issued a correction or apology.
This is not the first time Uson went on the defensive for sharing a misleading photo. In May 2017, she shared a supposed photo of the army in Marawi, kneeling to pray. It turned out to be a photo of Honduran police taken from some other site. Instead of apologizing, she told critics to use "common sense" because it was just a "symbolism."
In comments on her latest post, Uson claimed that Rappler was calling out her mistake to increase engagement on its page.
"Pinapalaki lang talaga ng RAPPLER dahil wala na talagang engagement yang BLOG na yan," she said. (Rappler is making a big deal because they have no engagement on their blog.)
During a recent Senate hearing on fake news, Uson said she is "only a blogger" so rules on fairness do not apply to her. She also claimed she is a victim of fake news.