THE Presidential Communication Operations Office’s (PCOO) proposed budget, which will rise 2.75% to P1.434 billion in 2019, was approved at committee level at the House of Representatives, in the face of calls for the office to be stripped of funding.
The House Committee on Appropriations on Thursday approved the PCOO budget as part of hearings to pass the General Appropriations Act of 2018.
The PCOO has attracted negative attention because of the activities of Assistant Secretary Esther Margaux J. Uson, including her partisan blogging career and a video that attempted to explain federalism via interpretative dance.
The proposed 2019 budget includes P709.36 million for personnel services, down 6.34%.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani T. Zarate during his interpellation said Ms. Uson as a public servant should be mindful of her actions on social media.
Mr. Zarate said Ms. Uson’s blogging in support of the government tends to blur the line between her activities as a private citizen and as a PCOO employee.
“She is no longer a private (citizen), she’s a government employee… there has to be a certain degree of accountability,” he added.
Mr. Zarate also noted that Ms. Uson’s activities online should be looked into to determine whether her activities as a government employee attract advertising income.
“(The government is) financing all these programs. I hope it can be clarified (whether she earns may mga sponsors d’yan, ads, so sinong kumikita dito?” Mr. Zarate said.
PCOO representatives at the hearing said Ms. Uson has been duly notified of the expectations of her as a civil servant.
“Undersecretary Lorraine (Marie T.) Badoy… has issued a memo reminding Assistant Secretary Uson… to remind her of the provisions (of Republic Act) 6713 on the norms and conduct expected of public officials and employees,” Assistant Secretary Ana Maria Paz R. Banaag said during the hearing.
Assistant Secretary for Policy Michel Kristian R. Ablan also said that the PCOO has developed a social media policy for government workers in partnership with the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT).
Mr. Zarate also brought up the issue of Ms. Uson’s travels as part of the president’s entourage.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin M. Andanar said Ms. Uson joined the president’s foreign visits at the request of the Office of President and other agencies.
He added that he authorized Ms. Uson’s various activities, including joining the president’s traveling party. He listed her duties as including producing content for PCOO on social media, government TV and Radyo ng Bayan. Specifically, she is currently running programs known as “DDS Podcast” and “Good News Duterte.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan