Cayetano defends bloggers joining U.S. trip for UNGA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 19) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday defended the presence of bloggers in the government's official trip to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

He said Presidential Communications Operations Office assistant secretary Mocha Uson and "Thinking Pinoy" blogger Rey Joseph Nieto were considered part of the government's communications team.

"Kaya mas marami sa mga personal blogs kasi mas exciting, mas engaging. Kasi kapag government website, medyo bland diba?" Cayetano said.

[Translation: There were more personal blogs because they're more exciting and engaging. If everyone's from the government website, it will be bland.]

As part of the delegation, Cayetano disclosed their airfare and living expenses were shouldered by the government, but only as much as the daily stipend prescribed by the rules.

Cayetano added this is the new normal, saying bloggers and social media influencers are even more effective platforms than the government's internal teams.

"We want to bring international relations and the ASEAN closer to the people," he said.

The UNGA is an annual convention where representatives from the member-states participate in policymaking for the organization. The 72nd session was held in New York from September 12 to 25.

During the UNGA, Cayetano told the assembly that the government's war against drugs is a "necessary instrument" to preserve and protect, and not violate human rights in the country.

He also signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is the first legally binding international agreement to completely eliminate nuclear weapons.

Earlier this month, Uson, Nieto, and other bloggers were in the hot seat as the Senate began its probe on fake news online.

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expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte, has had a series of social media gaffes - from sharing fake news, outdated stories, and inaccurate photos.