Senators to Mocha: You want fairness but have you been fair?

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2017 02:12 PM | Updated as of Oct 04 2017 02:31 PM

Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson answers questions at a Senate hearing on fake news Wednesday. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Uson: Blogs are 'opinion-based,' unlike media that have obligation to be fair

MANILA - Several senators on Wednesday slammed Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux "Mocha" Uson for insisting that she does not need to get both sides of a story before publishing a blog post - the same she demands of the media. 

At a hearing on the spread of fake news, majority and minority lawmakers alike questioned Uson about her posts on her widely popular Facebook page, where she has several times criticized opposition figures with unconfirmed claims. 

"Sa dinami-dami nung mga blog mo tungkol sa amin dito (sa Senado), may isang beses ba na humingi ka ng side namin?" opposition Sen. Bam Aquino asked Uson. 

Uson, usually vocal on social media, initially refused to answer Aquino's question by citing her right against self-incrimination.

But Sen. Grace Poe, the Senate committee on public information and mass media chair, said the privilege may not be raised since the question does not implicate her in any criminal activity.

"Hindi naman incriminating 'yan dahil it is not a crime. Others may say that it is incompetence or opinionated blogging but you can answer it," Poe told Uson.

After some nudging, Uson replied and defended herself by saying only the media have the obligation to be fair.

"Opinion-based ang blogging, unlike sa mainstream media, meron po silang obligasiyon na ireport (both sides of the story)," replied Uson, an entertainer the President appointed to government in May as a "debt of gratitude" for her support.

Uson insisted that it was the right of bloggers to express their opinions online. 

But Sen. Nancy Binay cited a provision from RA 6713 or the code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees.

"Under Section 4, we cannot use the excuse of doing things in our capacity as a private individual. Hindi mo na puwede ihiwalay 'yung pagiging blogger mo sa pagiging Asec (assistant secretary) mo," Binay said.

"Maybe it's high time for you to decide kung gusto mo maging blogger or gusto mo maging Asec," Binay added.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros added that Communications Secretary Martin Andanar had repeatedly said in interviews that "bloggers have to follow journalists' code of ethics," among which is fairness.

Communications Asec. Ana Maria Paz Banaag said Andanar's opinion that bloggers should adhere to journalistic principles has yet to be turned into an official policy, but agreed that it was a much needed protocol.

Banaag also distanced the Communications Department from Uson's musings and rants on her blog.

"Mocha's blog is personal to her. She will be accountable for her personal views," Banaag said.

Poe told Uson that her "liabilities are different from a common blogger because you are an official."

Aquino ended the exchange by reminding Uson to give what she has always asked from legitimate media organizations.

"Fairness ang hinihingi mo, puwede bang bigyan mo rin kami ng fairness?" Aquino said.