After their “Norwegia,” “Winston Gatchalian,” and “Rogelio Golez” gaffes, the Presidential Communications Operations Office is again under fire after some agency staffers allegedly pressured their regional hosts for extravagant treatment, according to a veteran journalist.
Edith “Ging” Z. Caduaya, a Davao-based freelance journalist, posted a tirade on Facebook against PCOO staffers whom she said recently visited Surigao. She said they pressured their hosts to serve them “lavish” food at meals and provide other extra resources.
Caduaya called the unnamed PCOO staffers the “habhab” (‘gluttonous,’ or colloquially, ‘pig out’) team.
In her July 3 post, she wrote (capitals hers): “Dear PCOO HabHab team, You are not in a position to dictate what food your host should serve! You are not in a position to Dictate what service vehicle you should use! You are NOT their BOSS! You are not ANGELS from HEAVEN, who deserve PRAISES and GRAND WELCOME!
“DO NOT PROVIDE A VENUE FOR PEOPLE TO BE CORRUPT, JUST TO SERVE YOU! YOU HAVE YOUR OWN BUDGET TO SPEND! DO NOT TREAT REGIONAL PEOPLE AS SLAVES! YOU ARE PUBLIC SERVANT! THE TAXPAYERS are YOUR BOSS! My apology to those who are dedicated to serve. Pero, sa mga PATAY GUTOM [greedy]! YOU DESERVE THIS RANT!”
The irate writer also addressed PCOO Secretary Jose Martin Andanar in another post also dated July 3, pointing to the agency’s flaws and missteps under his leadership. She alleged there is within the agency a penchant for extending preferential treatment (“You encourage a bata-bata system!”), poor coordination between agencies (“You come and go to places without even coordinating with your OWN AGENCY!”), and a chaotic organizational culture (“I can just imagine how messy your office is, RIGHT NOW! Your good and righteous staff saying goodbye to your office. While others endured, because they want to serve the PRESIDENT, NOT YOUR OFFICE ANYMORE!”).
Caudaya also pointed out the incompetence of PCOO personnel, writing, “You have NON-WORKING USEC AND ASEC! RECEIVING SALARIES. THIS IS A SHIT THING!” and “[Andanar says] NO TO DISINFORMATION , NO TO MISINFORMATION! But LOOK! which office spread the wrong information. IT IS YOUR OWN DESK! REMEMBER.. THE ID bruhaha, the ROGELIO GOLEZ, the NORWEGIA, the WINSTON GATCHALIAN. It all happened while you explore the wonders of SURIGAO and SIARGAO, with the Diving adventure, and the CRABS unlimited.”
She also alleged misuse of government funds, saying, “Most if not all of them [PCOO officials and staff], go for a JUNKET RIDE at the expense of PEOPLES money… [and] Your finance people drink all they can—hahaha “MORNING the NIGHT” with unlimited budget “MEALS” ang resibo!”
Caudaya also called on Andanar to rein in the excesses of his “habhab” team.
These are serious allegations and Andanar should address these—are these claims legitimate? If not, then issue a statement. If so, then the necessary steps should be taken to ‘clean house’ and review agency policies. Wasn’t it President Rodrigo Duterte himself who exhorted the public officials of his administration to be prudent and austere in their spending?
The Commission on Audit should also look into these matters.
PCOO is one of the most problematic agencies of the government. It is impossible that President Rodrigo Duterte is unaware that some of the agency officials are unqualified and have shown themselves unfit for their positions.
I cannot overemphasize enough the importance of good and effective communication in every aspect of human endeavor. It is what enables humans to construct their society and maintain social order. So for PCOO to let by mistakes in grammar, spelling, and general knowledge in their press releases is a show of how inept its staffers are and how little they value and respect their readers.
For the agency to continue to permit its assistant secretaries Mocha Uson and Lorraine Badoy to make hyperpartisan and rude comments against critics is to allow them to continue to divide an already polarized nation, instead of uniting it.
For PCOO to limp along for four more years under weak and ineffective leadership is to do the country a great disservice. Overhauling the agency will be like cleaning the Augean stables—a Herculean labor—but it can be done if the President wills it, as he did with the Department of Tourism, now under the capable hands of Secretary Bernadette Puyat.
Meanwhile, PCOO should address these recent allegations, unless they want to go down in history as the ‘habhab team.’
Dr. Ortuoste, a writer and researcher, has a PhD in Communication. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO