“From lewd ‘pepe-dede’ videos to mocking hearing-impaired citizens, Uson and her equally wastrel sidekicks have wasted public funds on displays of poor values.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – A group of artists and journalists hailed the deferment of the plenary deliberation on the proposed 2019 budget of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
The House of Representatives on Sept. 25 deferred the plenary deliberation of the PCOO’s proposed P1.47-billion budget because of the absence of Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson.
In a statement, Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) arts and media alliance, said Uson should first be made accountable for her “excesses and abuses.”
“From lewd ‘pepe-dede’ videos to mocking hearing-impaired citizens, Uson and her equally wastrel sidekicks have wasted public funds on displays of poor values,” LODI said. “A review of her performance over two years shows that her main task for Mr. Duterte is being the queen of disinformation.”
Last month, Uson drew flak after she posted a video showing her friend Drew Olivar dancing and chanting lewdly to a song with vulgar lyrics. The video, Uson claimed, was meant to spread information about Duterte’s federalism. Just recently, another video posted on Uson’s Facebook page shows Olivar mimicking sign language and making sounds in an apparent imitation of hearing- and speech-impaired people. Off camera, Uson could be heard laughing and said, “Para kang unggoy dyan (You look like a monkey).”
LODI has asked legislators to investigate the anomalies and other issues involving the PCOO during the budget deliberations at the committee level. The agency is pushing for a budget increase: from P1.38 billion in 2018 to 1.41 billion for 2019.
In a letter dated Sept. 6, LODI raised, among others, the following issues, which it said should be answered by PCOO:
1) the findings of the Commission on Audit regarding P39-million questionable expenses related to the 2017 Philippine hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit;
2) the increase of its expenses for domestic and foreign travel. The agency’s foreign travel expenses spiked from P15 million in 2016 to P42 million in 2017 while domestic travel expenses increased from P15 million in 2016 to P120 million in 2017;
3) the PCOO’s involvement in the making of the video “Pepederalismo;”
4) the policy with regard to social media posts handled by the agency.
Uson did not also attend the PCOO budget hearing at the appropriations committee level last Sept. 6 due to travel schedules.
At the last hearing, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar admitted that he is not even consulted on Uson’s travels and that she is exempt from disciplinary proceedings because only the President has authority over her.
“That is a recipe for abuse and corruption, and an endless cycle of outrageous behavior that betray her ignorance of the law or ethics,” LODI said.
In a forum held Sept. 12, LODI convenor Inday Espina-Varona said Uson’s “private activities” could not be separated from her public office. She noted how Uson is using her blog and other “private” activities to evade accountability.
“Nobody is attacking Mocha Uson’s freedom of expression. It’s not about her rights. It’s about abuse of gov’t power,” Varona said.
Blogger and LODI convenor Tonyo Cruz, meanwhile, called on Congress to exercise its oversight function on the PCOO’s budget and to protect the public.
“Congress should look into state communication, ensure credibility, transparency and non-partisanship in the PCOO,” Cruz said.