Explain massive hiring of 'social media specialists' in Senate hearing, PCOO told

Published July 13, 2021, 4:26 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) will not be spared in the proposed Senate investigation into the proliferation of allegedly state-funded trolls.

Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson (Senate of the Philippines)

Senator Panfilo Lacson said he will also raise issues in the PCOO when the chamber starts looking into claims that government funds are being used to operate troll farms, especially amid the upcoming elections.

“For one, we want to be clarified why there is an incredible surge in the hiring of personnel in the PCOO,” said Lacson, one of the 12 senators who filed on Monday a resolution calling for the said legislative probe.

“What are the job descriptions of those hires? How much in public monies are being utilized and where and how is it being sourced?” he added.

The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier questioned the PCOO for spending over ₱70 million to pay for the salaries of 375 contractual employees in 2020.

State auditors noted that the number was “240.42 percent way above” the number of PCOO’s existing personnel.

PCOO officials, however, maintained that the contractuals hired were “social media specialists” given “highly technical tasks”, and not online trolls.

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, also one of the co-authors of Senate Resolution No. 768, said it is high time that the Senate conducts an official investigation into such allegations.

“Hindi dapat ginagamit ang kaban ng bayan sa pagpapakalat ng agam-agam at paglalako ng mga kasinungalingan. Kabastusan ito sa taumbayan, lalo sa panahong maraming Pilipino ang nangangailangan ng kabuhayan at dagdag na tulong pangkalusugan (Public funds should not be used to spread uncertainty and lies. This is an insult to the people, especially at a time when many Filipinos are in need of jobs and health care assistance), she said in a separate statement.

“A ‘state-funded troll farm’ would be a great desecration by the Philippine government,” she stressed.

“Lalo na palapit ang eleksyon (Especially with the upcoming elections), nothing less than the democratic will of the people is at stake,” Hontiveros added.