Assistant Communications Secretary Mocha Uson announced her resignation at a Senate budget hearing Wednesday, expressing hope that this would clear the way for the speedy approval of the proposed P1.4-billion spending plan for the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
“There are lawmakers who have been holding back the PCOO budget. These are the leftist lawmakers who are angry at me,” Uson said in Filipino during a hearing of the Senate finance subcommittee on her agency’s budget for 2019.
“Every year, they tell me not to criticize the lawmakers so they won’t hold back the PCOO budget. So, I’ll sacrifice myself so that the budget can pass. I’ve decided to resign,” she added.
READ: ‘Mocha isn’t off the hook just yet’
Special Assistant to the President Bong Go said Duterte has already accepted Uson’s resignation.
The House of Representatives has deferred the PCOO’s budget hearing twice because Uson was absent.
Emerging from hearing, Uson vowed to step up her attacks against President Rodrigo Duterte’s critics, whom she called mga ulol or rabid dogs.
“I will do what I did during the [last presidential] campaign. Let’s have a fist fight, let’s fight it out. Don’t restrain me,” Uson said.
“Marami po diyan basta ‘yung mga epal na senador at kongresista kasi sumosobra na sila eh,” she added.
(“There are many senators and congressmen who like to butt in where they don’t belong. They’re too much.”)
Uson has been widely criticized for using her blog to spread false news and information against the President’s critics.
One of these, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, has filed administrative and criminal complaints against Uson for spreading “fake news” that he owned offshore bank accounts.
“Wait for it. This will really be a war,” she said, noting that she was now free from any restrictions that came with her job at the PCOO.
“I am free again to fight. But now you can expect that I will be even fiercer,” she said.
“To my critics, don’t be mistaken that you have won,” she said, adding that she resigned so that there would be a “fair fight.” She also vowed to double her efforts to protect the President.
Lawmakers, citizens groups and even Uson’s colleagues at the PCOO have called on her to resign due to several controversies and blunders she committed.
Only recently, she drew flak for making fun of sign language in a video posted on her Facebook page.
Asked if she would run for office next year, Uson said she would heed the President’s advice to “let the people decide.”
“I can’t answer that now. I will listen to the comments I read on Facebook, to what the supporters say there,” said Uson who occupied the 45th to 63rd spot among the senatorial preferences based on the September Pulse Asia survey.
“I don’t look at the surveys, I look at what I get on Facebook. They say, ‘Fight on,’” said Uson, who has served in the Duterte administration for one year and five months.
Uson, a sexy dancer who joined the Duterte presidential campaign before being appointed to the PCOO, said she is sure the President would accept her resignation.
Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go said the Palace respects her resignation and thanked her for her service.
“She was a good ally,” Go said.
Her critics said Uson’s resignation was “too little, too late.”
“It is an extremely belated gesture rendered insignificant in the face of gross incompetence, state-sponsored vulgarity and the proliferation of fake news. It has come very late in response to the public’s demand for accountability,” said opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros.
The damage, she said, has already been done. She said Uson is leaving the PCOO with a badly tarnished reputation.
“She has not only successfully planted the seeds of untruth inside the government, she has made sure it bore fruit to sow confusion and poison the public’s mind,” Hontiveros added.
She added that it would take more than a forced, token resignation to rebuild the credibility of the PCOO.
“I call on Secretary Martin Andanar to restore some sense of order to his office and end the incompetence and state-sponsored promotion of fake news,” Hontiveros said.
She said this may be an extremely challenging task for Andanar, as he himself is accused of gross mismanagement and issuing misleading statements.
“But if Secretary Andanar really wants to salvage the PCOO’s image, he has this one chance to do it. If not, he is no better than Uson,” she said.
Senator Nancy Binay said Uson has the freedom to attack anyone “for as long as no government funds are being spent.”
She also said Uson’s resignation was a missed opportunity to prove her critics wrong.
“She missed the opportunity to prove everybody wrong. This was her chance to show everyone that she deserved to be called Asec. Mocha Uson, but she didn’t do it,” she said.
The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo said Uson’s resignation was no big deal.
Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokesperson, said despite her resignation, Uson could still be held liable for her lies and attacks.
“It would be wrong for her to think that because of her resignation, she is no longer culpable for the lies and vilifications she has done on others,” he noted.
“Mocha Uson really displayed her lack of understanding and readiness to fulfill her duties as a public servant for so many times,” he said.
“Her resignation is not a loss to the country,” he added.
The actions of Uson and blogger Drew Olivar had not helped President Rodrigo Duterte, he said.
Olivar earlier attacked Robredo, claiming the widow went around with a man during her South Africa trip in 2017.
On Aug. 30 in a video blog, Uson questioned Robredo’s loyalty to the President and asked her if she had done something good for the country to address the problem on illegal drugs.
In the House, lawmakers said they were relieved by Uson’s resignation.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said it was Uson’s decision to resign.
“Nobody is indispensable,” he added.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the House committee on public information, said her departure from government was “good riddance” and “long overdue.”
Opposition Representatives Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Gary Alejano of Magdalo Party-list and Tom Villarin of Akbayan shared a similar view.
“[Uson’s resignation was] long overdue. Government service, while it is about trust, it is also about accountability; and, that is what is lacking with her,” Zarate said.
Alejano said it was good riddance for the administration’s “excess baggage.”
“Unfortunately for Mocha, notoriety doesn’t translate to performance as her one assigned tasks of doing an info drive on federalism floundered in scandal and controversy,” Alejano said.
Villarin said Uson had it coming for her.
“She’s so contemptuous and full of herself. She does not want to be held accountable nor does she respect the office she holds. Her insistence not to appear in official summons of Congress and Senate belies what a public official should be doing,” Villarin said.
“She’s devilishly arrogant and mischief is her virtue. As a public servant, she should not be beyond public scrutiny and admonition. Her resignation, though too little and too late, is a whiff of fresh air to a poisoned air we now breathe,” he added.
Despite the controversies surrounding Uson, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said she was qualified to run for Congress.
“The only qualification is you must be a Filipino and age qualification, so she is qualified,” Roque said.
He called her “a messenger to many of the President’s supporters.”
In a separate interview with dzBB, Uson lamented the public should not vote for the same faces in the Senate and Congress as the lawmakers only use their seats for their own interests.
“You can expect that in the upcoming elections, I will campaign to go against the trapo [traditional politicans] and those who are not worthy of the peoples’ votes,” she said.
She said the President would not press her to run.
“He doesn’t dictate people what to do. He would let you think for yourself and he will support you. He even said, ‘Let the people decide.’ So, whatever the sentiment of the voters would be, I would listen to that,” she said.
Some senators, meanwhile, want the PCOO to revert to the old Office of the Press Secretary to make it more effective.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III presented the idea when PCOO officials led by Andanar faced the Senate committee on finance to defend their proposed budget next year.
Sotto later said that he was speaking on behalf of Senators Panfilo Lacson and Gregorio Honasan.
Besides, Sotto said he was informed that the PCOO was created supposedly to “accommodate some political friends” of the previous administration.
“So we’re thinking that perhaps this the best time to study while studying your budget, to review and study of the possibility of reverting back into the Office of the Press Secretary,” he said.
“We can streamline that and use your current budget and if necessary, we can infuse more budget for the office to be more effective,” he added.
Senator JV Ejercito, who presided over the hearing, agreed with the proposal.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.