If Presidential Assistant Communications Secretary Mocha Uson and her perennial hanger – on, Drew Olivar, thought they could get away with their latest antic — making fun of the sign language of deaf people in a recent video posted on Uson’s Facebook page — the way they had gotten away with their other offensive online actions in the past, they thought wrong.
Then again, for far too long, Uson’s many bald lies, ethical lapses and sheer cluelessness about her job had merited no more than a peep from Palace officials, who appeared to fear the perceived clout of her 5-million-plus following on social media.
People had begun to wonder if she were untouchable. After all, with at least P130,000 a month of taxpayer money going into her salary, the public had every right to expect some sort of accountability for her official behavior — something tougher and more stern than, say, the generic memo that she was issued over her earlier infamous video of Olivar performing suggestive dance moves while mouthing “pepe-dede-ralismo,” a clip Uson admitted to filming in her office.
Far more costly than that video, which effectively torpedoed the administration’s federalism campaign, was Uson’s swaggering video, shot in Kuwait, announcing the intended rescue by Philippine government personnel of some distressed overseas Filipino workers in that country.
The video, and the actual incidents that followed, led to a full-blown diplomatic crisis between Kuwait and the Philippines, the Filipino ambassador himself getting expelled and declared persona non grata by the Kuwaiti government.
The Kuwaiti stunt did not appear to do Uson much damage. No apology was ever forced out of her for that dangerous caper, and none for the “pepe-dede-ralismo” imbecility, either.
While sundry officials called for Uson’s removal from government or at least her inhibition from dabbling in matters of policy or governance in the wake of that PR disaster, Malacañang itself made no move to sanction her.
President Duterte, in fact, was characterized by the Palace as having remained “cool” after seeing the clip. During a recent speech before the Filipino community in Israel, the President said that while there were “excesses” in Uson’s actions, they were part of her freedom of speech.
Who could make Uson apologize for her bad behavior?
The Filipino deaf community, it turns out.
The immediate outcry of those citizens, and the public at large — concretized in a suit filed by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD) at the Office of the Ombudsman against Uson and Olivar — forced the pair to offer separate apologies for their latest hijinks.
The complaint charges them with violating Republic Act No. 9442, “which penalizes verbal, nonverbal ridicule and vilification against persons with disability.”
“Uson and Olivar were laughing and making fun of us,” protested PFD president Carolyn Dagani.
For Marya Angcay, a leader of the deaf community, the video clip “reminded us of the times when we were bullied and could not fight back,” while Raymond Manding, president of the PFD’s youth section, worried about the reach of social media and how Uson, a high-profile public official, was setting a bad example.
“What if children started copying her?” he asked.
The De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), which houses a School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies and the Benilde Deaf School, also released a statement urging the government to “take action” against Uson and Olivar for being “very offensive and disrespectful” to the Filipino deaf community.
(Olivar is in hot water again for posting a fake “bomb threat” on Sept. 21 to dissuade people from joining antimartial law rallies.)
Uson’s actions, said DLS-CSB president Br. Dennis Magbanua, were “unbecoming of a government official,” and violative of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Previous appeals to hold Uson to those standards, to which other less favored government officials are strictly subjected, had been met with shrugged shoulders in the Palace.
On Thursday, notably, it offered no defense of Uson but announced that it would let the Ombudsman decide on the PFD complaint.
It should be said: Penalizing Uson and Olivar for the wanton dumb and dumber routine they have foisted on the nation, at taxpayers’ expense, will help ensure that their overextended 15 minutes of notoriety no longer makes a mockery of governmental affairs.
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