[OPINION] Mocha Uson is a disgrace to public officials

Marites Dañguilan Vitug

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[OPINION] Mocha Uson is a disgrace to public officials
But her conduct is completely acceptable to Duterte. Hyperpartisanship at the expense of public interest is the new norm in government.

Since Margaux “Mocha” Uson came into the public’s consciousness as an avid campaigner of Rodrigo Duterte and later, an appointed government official, I’ve kept her in the periphery of my radar screen. She’s a distraction, I told myself, one of these personalities with an addled brain and a colorful past who simply got into government courtesy of our enduring patronage system. As Duterte had said, “I am paying [her] a debt of gratitude.”

But as events unfolded, a disturbing pattern has emerged: Uson has turned the meaning of public service upside down. She has flouted sacrosanct rules a public official must abide by. In the process, she, encouraged by her boss, President Duterte, has been among those tearing apart the fabric of government service: public office is a public trust.

Uson may not have even given the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees a browse. In simple words, here are some of the Code’s tenets:

  • Commitment to public interest
  • Professionalism
  • Justness and sincerity

Using the cloak of her clunky title, Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, she has not lived by any of these. Let us count the ways.

Uson frames certain issues with malice to further polarize our society, part of her deliberate disinformation campaign. Two stand out: she conducted a poll asking her followers if the 1986 people power revolt was a product of “fake news”; and more recently, to defend Duterte’s tasteless titillation of the Filipinos in South Korea by kissing a female OFW on the lips, on stage, she unearthed from the archives a video of two women kissing Ninoy Aquino on the plane bound for Manila, where he was to meet his death in the hands of an assassin on August 21, 1983.

What’s the difference? Uson asked nonchalantly. This shows a lot of malevolence in her brain, wiping out any granule of comprehension.

We’re not even looking at how she has consistently failed to differentiate between fake and real, fact and falsity. Proof that she’s purveyor of “fake news” is ample.

Her actions, indeed, betray the 3 tenets enshrined in the Code of Conduct.

  • Where is her commitment to public interest?
  • Where is her professionalism?
  • Where is her justness and sincerity?

All flushed down the toilet of her mind.

Cayetano’s ‘ambassador’

But do her bosses care? Not at all. In fact, she is rewarded for all she has done to disgrace public service.

Duterte and Secretary Alan Cayetano trot Uson out when they travel overseas. Last year, she was part of the Philippine delegation to the UN General Assembly giving Cayetano a boost to the Filipinos in New York.

Early this year, in Milan, she joined the foreign affairs secretary in a meeting with Philippine ambassadors from Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

She also joined Duterte in his trips to Cambodia for the World Economic Forum, Russia, China, Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, and India for the ASEAN-India summit.

Duterte gov’t norm

These are clear signals that Uson’s work and conduct are part of the norm of the Duterte government. Hyperpartisanship at the expense of public interest is completely acceptable.

Here’s where our problem lies. The President himself has set the tone to erode the values of civility and respect in our public lives. We’re gradually losing these strands that have been keeping our national fabric intact.

Uson just happens to be in the frontlines, a few steps behind Duterte. The trail of destruction they will leave behind is not visible, something we cannot measure and touch. Rather, it’s an unsettling feeling that core values are being torn apart, that our public lives have been downhill for sometime.

And when Duterte defends Uson’s “sacred right” to express her opinion, because that’s what the Constitution provides, but takes this away from the journalists, saying freedom of the press is a “privilege”, not a “right”, although the Constitution is explicit on this, then there’s more that’s terribly wrong.

I thought that I was only missing complete sentences when Duterte speaks and searching in vain for that uplifting feeling when listening to his speeches. But these are really minor compared to what we’re missing and gradually losing, day after day, year after year: the civility in our mores, the primacy of public interest.

And Uson is just one reminder of these. – Rappler.com

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Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Marites is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished journalists and authors. For close to a decade, Vitug – a Nieman fellow – edited 'Newsbreak' magazine, a trailblazer in Philippine investigative journalism. Her recent book, 'Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case Against China,' has become a bestseller.