Mocha Uson, the public official: a timeline

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Mocha Uson’s appointment as assistant secretary to the Presidential Communications Office has sparked online outrage primarily directed at her qualifications for the job. Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — “A public office is a public trust,” says the 1987 Philippine Constitution, thus setting the highest standard by which we measure the performance of public officials either elected, or assigned, to government. The provision, found in Article XI, continues: “Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

The inclusive definition is meant to open up the government to anyone who has the basic qualifications and the willingness to serve time and effort in public service. While there are eligibility requirements for government positions — such as civil service eligibility — for the most part, working in government primarily calls for what the Constitution requires of it: accountability, responsibility, loyalty, efficiency, patriotism, justice, and modesty.

The recent flurry of new appointments in government made by the president has sparked both criticism and approval, the most controversial being blogger Mocha Uson’s appointment as assistant secretary for the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). Describing Uson as "bright" and "articulate," President Duterte also said of the appointment: "Utang na loob ko 'yan sa kanya."

As PCOO assistant secretary, Uson will take part in producing and disseminating official government communications. Uson, a member of the dancing and singing group Mocha Girls, also manages Mocha Uson Blog, a Facebook page with 5 million likes and 4.9 million followers at present.

Mocha-Uson-Rodrigo-Duterte-CNNPH.jpg Mocha Uson with President Rodrigo Duterte.

Uson promises to bridge the gap between ordinary Filipinos and the government through social media, emphasizing the importance of bringing “proper news” (or tamang balita, as she says in a blog post) as opposed to maling balita (or fake news). “…Tayo ang media ni Tatay Digong,” she concludes in the same post.

Despite these reassurances, Uson’s appointment has sparked online outrage primarily directed at her qualifications for the job. Here’s a timeline of government positions as well as public engagements she has been hired (or considered) for, before her appointment to the PCOO.

Bureau of Customs

Uson’s supposedly first foray into public office was a false alarm. Reports circulated on August 2016 that Uson was appointed as “social media consultant” for the Bureau of Customs, which was denied by Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon. He said, however, that Uson can write articles about the bureau in her blog. The news also gave rise to the hashtag #DutertePleaseAppointMe on Twitter.

The Philippine Star

On November 8, The Philippine Star started publishing “Hotspot,” Uson’s opinion column in the 30-year-old national broadsheet. The column was preceded with an announcement from columnist Ricky Lo, who said that the column will feature “hot items you can expect from Mocha every Tuesday.” Loudest among those against her new assignment was Regina Belmonte, daughter of Philippine Star President Miguel Belmonte, who stated on Twitter, among other social media platforms, that “Mocha Uson peddling lies in it [Star] is a disgrace to my lola's memory," referring to veteran journalist Betty Go-Belmonte.

Uson’s column features her opinions on current events and political issues, the latest (on May 9) being about Gina Lopez’ stint as environment secretary.

Metro Manila Film Festival

As ambassadress of the MMFF, Uson appeared on December 2016 in a press conference in Malacañang to express how she would promote the film festival to the public. Stating that the film industry has been left behind by its foreign counterparts and that many local filmmakers lack support, Uson stressed that change has come to the government and that local filmmakers can now expect support from the Duterte administration.

Movie and Television Review and Classification Board

Uson was appointed as board member of the MTRCB in January. As board member, she is part of a sub-committee tasked to recommend the disapproval of a motion picture, T.V. show, or any publicity material. She vowed to help bring change to the MTRCB by eradicating soft core pornography in primetime television shows, stating that sex scenes on television are “getting out of control.” In the renewed wave of criticism following her appointment, former MTRCB board member and actress Leah Navarro said in a tweet: “Blogging is not a qualification for appointment to the MTRCB. Which industry is she representing? Is she multi-awarded?”

Uson’s term in the MTRCB is slated to end on September 30.

DZRH

“Mocha Uson Blog: Boses ng Ordinaryong Mamamayang Pilipino,” Uson’s radio-television show on DZRH News, started airing in February. However, it was suspended in March for profane language, following her strong criticism of Vice President Leni Robredo in one episode. Uson called Robredo an “idiot,” among other things, after the latter spoke before the U.N., criticizing the government’s bloody war against drugs. DZRH station manager Atty. Rudolph Jularbal said Uson’s conduct did not conform to company standards and that she must take a broadcasting accreditation exam first before being allowed to continue the program.

Uson also faces a complaint before the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters ng Pilipinas (KBP) for alleged violations of the KBP Broadcast Code, particularly on “programs intended to malign, unfairly criticize or attack a person,” and for “offensive, obscene, blasphemous, profane, and vulgar double meaning words and phrases.”

Philippine Army

In March, Uson was invited to speak on the challenges of being a social media personality at the Armed Forces of the Philippines' 10th Senior Leaders Conference, but backed out of the speaking engagement to spare the army from the online backlash she anticipated from her critics. The event promotes awareness of security challenges in the army by welcoming speakers from various disciplines. Even as she withdrew from the speaking engagement, Uson promised to share her knowledge of the topic with the armed forces.

Philippine delegate to the Middle East

In April, Uson joined President Duterte in his official state visits to Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to boost morale among OFWs working in these countries. Her large social media following, among other reasons, was considered in her inclusion as an official delegate, according to Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella.