Friday, September 21, 2018
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Sisyphus’ Lament

Mocha Uson’s influencer report card

Singapore—“We need people who are highly educated and possess stature. The Office of the President is not a student council.” Thus was newly appointed Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) criticized by lawyer Paula Defensor Knack, sister of the late senator Miriam Santiago. Uson’s affiliates cite 5 million Facebook followers as her credential, but what is her actual impact beyond this oft-cited statistic?

PCOO Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan opined that government is so large it needs organized channels to tell us what it is doing, from social media to provincial radio. He plays the administration’s Sam Seaborn. He posted pictures of the first FOI manuals on Facebook. He led volunteers across agencies who drafted these in 120 days, with no formal budget. I appreciated seeing government up close in such a personal way.


(I tried requesting the solicitor general’s recommendation that a court acquit Janet Napoles at last Feb. 16. No one responded.)

But can Uson channel the “West Wing” linchpin, Press Secretary CJ Cregg?

Uson joined the “presstitutes” as a Philippine Star columnist last November. Her 25 columns tackled national issues from Gina Lopez’s confirmation as environment secretary to Mighty Corp.’s tax case.

But she offered nothing new beyond existing debate. She never defined Lopez’s defense the way Randy David’s “Dutertismo” and John Nery’s “The unfortunate…” became signature pieces. She dropped the Mocha Uson Blog’s raw passion, as though a different person was writing. Even her polemics—“Why do Filipinos hate Leni?”, “The flop of yellows’ Edsa plan” and “Is CBCP anti-Christ?”—lacked vigor. Nor
did she use unparalleled access and exclusive interviews with President Duterte himself to spotlight underappreciated facets
of government, like a simple photo of the first FOI manuals.

Finally, her fellow Star columnist Federico Pascual observed Uson’s column on the Star website last January. Its Facebook likes were “jumping by big blocks,” about 1,000 an hour starting 2 a.m. He wrote, “Are computers and apps doing it for a paying client?”

Uson tried being a hard-hitting host when dzRH News TV gave her a show last February. It was canceled the next month, after Uson attacked Vice President Leni Robredo with: “Sinungaling (liar) ka at fake news ka… Bumili ka ng utak! (Buy a brain!)”

Uson was made Metro Manila Film Festival ambassador last December. She barely fired public curiosity for the unprecedented all indie lineup. When fans made social media pleas to rush to cinemas before a movie was pulled out, the Facebook queen’s presence was not felt.

Finally, Uson was appointed to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board last January. She condemned soft porn and abuse of “strong parental guidance” ratings, but not much was heard afterwards.

A year after the election, the Inquirer’s May 13, 2017, editorial decried “her track record in disseminating fake news and her fundamental misappreciation of the role of dissent.” College students still lament her divisive politics where everyone either supports Mr. Duterte or is a presstitute, an elitist or a tool of the oligarchs.


Campaigning is completely different from governing. Objectively, Uson has yet to translate 5 million Facebook followers and unparalleled access into a concrete post-election message to bring up close and personal to Filipinos, particularly non-Duterte voters.

Perhaps Uson must evolve into standing for something from standing against so many things. One must eventually build something. And one cannot build a nation on anger.

Or perhaps such thinking is pointless. Perhaps all that voters need to feel closer to government is to feel they can relate to a figure like Uson and ride the emotional coasters she starts. As De La Salle Prof. Antonio Contreras wrote: “She is powerful because she renders facts irrelevant.”

One hopes Assistant Secretary Uson reinvents herself this time as CJ Cregg, not Kellyanne Conway or Mohammed Saeed al Sahhaf, Saddam Hussein’s information minister.

React:, Twitter @oscarfbtan,

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