Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the Senate call to look into the government hiring of 375 contractual personnel under the Presidential Communications Operations Office, which some lawmakers described as troll farms to discredit its critics.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the gesture after 12 senators called for an investigation into the mass hiring of contractual of service under the PCOO headed by Secretary Martin Andanar, citing public funds are being used to finance troll farms.
Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier revealed that an undersecretary has allegedly set up at least two troll farms throughout the country to discredit critics of the administration and potential opponents in 2022.
“We welcome the investigation that will be conducted by the Senate. The Senate is an independent branch of government that we cannot dictate on. So they can investigate all they want,” Roque added.
The Senate call for probe came after the Commission on Audit flagged the PCOO hiring of 375 contractual workers last year.
Communications Undersecretary Kris Ablan confirmed COA’s report but insisted that the agency has no trolls, adding there are only 305 COS.
He also defended the hiring of workers whose job is to accomplish “highly technical tasks.”
Lawmakers are free to investigate “all they want” reports that public funds are being used to run “troll farms”, Roque said.
At least 12 senators on Monday filed a resolution calling for an investigation into the spending of government funds for the creation of troll farms to target critics of the Duterte administration and potential opponents in 2022.
Roque welcomed senators’ call for an investigation, claiming that he himself is a victim of these trolls.
Roque urged the lawmakers to also investigate trolls attacking him, citing a study that showed that he is among the top personalities being harassed by trolls.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Richard “Dick” Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, and Joel Villanueva on Monday filed proposed Senate Resolution 768 asking the appropriate Senate Committee to probe the alleged state-funded trolls.
Citing information disclosed by Lacson, the senators said an incumbent government undersecretary has allegedly been preparing troll farms across the country ahead of the 2022 elections.