A pro-President Rodrigo Duterte blogger has voluntarily backed out of his contract as a social media consultant to the Department of Foreign Affairs, less than a week after being called to a Senate hearing on so-called fake news.
Rey Joseph “RJ” Nieto announced Monday on his social media platform, “Thinking Pinoy,” that he has asked the DFA to terminate his contract, and that he would donate to charity at least P36,000 in salary he was supposed to get from his stint.
The DFA declined to comment on Nieto’s post.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who has extended his trip to New York to almost a month, has not commented on his hiring of Nieto, barely two months since his appointment to the DFA.
But a day after the Senate hearing, where Nieto was invited to be a resource person, the pro-Duterte blogger posted on his account that Cayetano called him to discuss the so-called “Cocoygate” and the hearing by the lawmakers.
“Nanood pala kasi siya, tapos sabi niya sa akin na magpahinga rin ako kasi nonstop ang schedule ko these past three weeks (Cayetano was watching the proceedings, then told me to rest because my schedule had been nonstop),” Nieto wrote on his blog.
“Cocoygate” refers to Edward Angelo “Cocoy” Dayao, the web security consultant of the Presidential Communications Operations Office of the previous Aquino administration, and the discovery of the pro-Duterte bloggers that Dayao had something to do with the “Silent No More” blog that is critical of the President and supposedly allied with the opposition “yellow” politicians.
Nieto and another pro-Duterte blogger—Margaux “Mocha” Uson, now an assistant secretary under the Presidential Communication and Operations Office—were with Cayetano as official government delegates to the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York from September 19 to 23.
They were also with the government delegation during Cayetano’s official visit to Washington DC.
However, Nieto only came back on Tuesday night, October 3, a day before his hearing in the Senate.
During the hearing conducted by the Senate committee on public information and mass media on October 4, Nieto said he was hired as DFA consultant and given the job of “head of strategic communications for migrant workers’ affairs” in July this year. He claimed that the “DFA needed me more than I need them.”
A DFA insider, who requested anonymity, admitted the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs was already advised on Nieto’s claim, but has no final decision yet on how to handle the blogger’s apparent resignation.
Nieto, however, said in his blog: “I have already contacted the DFA to request for the termination of my consultancy contract.”
“While I have yet to receive any remuneration for the services I have rendered since July 2017, I have decided to donate prospective earnings to a suitable charity organization if and when I get compensated,” he added.
The DFA has not provided details nor officially confirmed Nieto’s status as a consultant despite media queries.
During the Senate hearing, Nieto said: “We are like slaves there and I only get P12,000. It’s not even enough to pay for taxi. It’s just that the DFA needs me more than I need them and I want the government to succeed.”
DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar, however, declined to react, saying Nieto’s remark was “his personal opinion.” He said last week that if what Nieto posts in his blog violates the Code of Ethics for government employees, then the blogger can be held liable.