Senators urge Mocha Uson: Use your power wisely

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 4) — Communications Assistant Secretary and blogger Mocha Uson was in the hot seat Wednesday, as the Senate started an investigation into fake news online.

Uson was told by senators she cannot separate the "blogger Uson" from the "government official Uson."

"Malinaw na malinaw hindi mo na pwedeng ihiwalay ang pagiging blogger sa pagiging Asec (assistant secretary) mo," Senator Nancy Binay said during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media.

[Translation: It's clear you can no longer separate being a blogger from being an assistant secretary.]

Uson, whose Facebook blog has over 5 million followers and has openly expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte, has had a series of social media gaffes — from sharing fake news, outdated stories, and inaccurate photos.

Uson defended her right to express opinions on her blog, which she insisted is a personal space.

"Opinion place po ang blogging," she said.

Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Ana Banaag came to Uson's defense, saying that Uson understood she solely was responsible for comments she made on her blog. Uson had the Facebook blog prior to her appointment as Assistant Secretary and was allowed by the Palace to maintain it.

Senator Sonny Trillanes said Uson is a representative of government, so there is no line separating her official position from the personal opinions on her blog. 

"Kapag Mocha Uson Blog ang nagsalita, part siya ng PCOO as a senior official, then it is part of PCOO's (Presidential Communications Operations Office) dissemination," he said.

[Translation: When Mocha Uson Blog posts, that is a part of the dissemination of the PCOO as she is a senior official.]

Trillanes added, "You have extra responsibility. As government officers, we are held to higher standards."

Senator Grace Poe told Uson she must verify the information she posts and shares, especially because the office she works for is considered the government's "information central."

"It doesn't mean that if it's published, it means it's reliable. Hindi dapat nag-po-post nang hindi nagche-check," Poe said.

Uson, a victim of fake news?

Uson said she is also a victim of fake news, citing mainstream news outlets that had spread lies about her.

She hit on some mainstream media for not seeking her comment when publishing negative news about her.

This prompted comments from Senator Bam Aquino, an administration critic, who asked Uson if she herself ever sought the minority bloc's opinion on stories she wrote about them.

Uson insisted she is not a journalist, unlike those in mainstream media.

"Blogger ako, hindi journalist," she said.

[Translation: I am a blogger, not a journalist.]

 

Trillanes advised Uson to use her wide audience reach for the better.

"You have a strong influence to the public. Gamitin mo 'yan in a positive way. You can promote, defend, explain policies. That way, hindi hateful yung cyberspace natin," he said.

Binay asked Uson to decide which career she wants to pursue.

"Maybe it's high time for you to decide kung gusto mo maging blogger o gusto mo maging Asec," she said.

 

Trillanes told Uson she can keep her blog as long as she does not write about government policies.

"You have to decide kung gagamitin mo ang blog na 'yun to promote and defend Duterte or explain his policies, by all means gamitin mo. Pero ang ayaw natin 'yung gagamitin mo ang medium to spread misinformation at deniability na hindi 'yan government kasi personal mo," he said.

[Translation: You have to decide if you will use your blog to promote or defend Duterte or explain his policies. What we don't want is for you to use that medium to spread misinformation and deny accountability because it is published on a personal space.]

Uson responded: "I'm going to consider all his suggestions sa approach ko sa blog kung makakabuti ito sa bayan."