MANILA - Senator Grace Poe on Tuesday raised questions about a possible conflict between Mocha Uson's blog and her work as an Assistant Secretary at the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
Poe, chair of the committee on public information and mass media investigating the issue of "fake news," noted that it is hard to separate Uson's personal opinion, as reflected in her blog and Facebook posts, from that of the PCOO.
"Have you ever considered - and I will ask this and I hope you will answer in all candidness - that since her own private blog is also a way of expressing and communicating, that this is indeed overlapping with her official functions?" Poe asked Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.
The senator also expressed concern that Uson may be using public time in her private blogging, which may show evidence of conflict of interest.
Poe proceeded to ask Andanar if he ever considered shutting down the Mocha Uson Blog, her Facebook page which has more than 5 million followers.
The Palace official, for his part, said it is unfair to judge the PCOO based on Uson's blog, which is entirely separate from her work as a public official.
Andanar said Uson is aware that she is not exempt from the law if anyone finds fault in what she does.
"If we judge PCOO based on Mocha’s blog, I think it’s unfair for the thousands of workers of government media who work so hard para lumakas 'yung ating plataporma. The Mocha blog doesn't represent PCOO," said Andanar.
Poe asked if it is better if Uson, who has been repeatedly flagged for erroneous or misleading posts, remained working in private, perhaps as head of a group backing President Rodrigo Duterte, where she could express her support more freely.
But Andanar said whether or not Uson continues with her stint at the PCOO is the President's prerogative because she is a presidential appointee. And as far as her PCOO work is concerned, the Palace official said Mocha is "serving her market well."
Duterte appointed Uson to a communications post in May 2017, calling it a debt of gratitude for one of his fiercest supporters during the campaign.
Columnist Tonyo Cruz, meanwhile, said there is nothing bad about blogging even by a government official because it is a right under the Constitution.
The problem arises, he said, when a government official's position is being used in her private work. He said the government should have a clear code of conduct on the use of social media among state workers.
"Assistant Secretary Uson has no right to use public funds, public time, and public office from which to write on her blog, or to use any government platform to publicize her blog. She cannot disclose official business principally on her blog," he said.
On her widely followed blog, Uson continues to post a mix of Palace news and personal opinion, including strongly-worded statements against personalities opposed to Duterte and the administration.