He’s blasted some members of the media in the past, but President Rodrigo Duterte actually believes in an individual’s right to free speech — well, at least when it comes to his staff.
The president has defended Mocha Uson, one of his more ardent supporters and an assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), for her refusal to apologize to celebrity and former First Daughter Kris Aquino.
In a press conference during the inauguration of the new Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Duterte said: “As I respect the opposition, I must also respect the people in my camp. She [Uson] has invoked the right of free expression — freedom to express. If you invoke that, there’s nothing else that I can do.”
Adds Duterte: “She [Mocha] has invoked a sacred right, that is sacred. That’s guaranteed under the constitution.”
Kris blasted Uson for comparing Duterte’s controversial kiss with a video of her father, the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr., being kissed by two unnamed women before being assassinated in 1983.
Uson has refused to apologize, saying: “Ms. Aquino, this is not about you.”
Duterte also confirmed that he instructed his special assistant Christopher “Bong” Go to apologize to Kris for the incident. Said Duterte: “I said, Bong, tell her [Kris] we are sorry for the incident because she [Mocha] works for me in Malacañang.”
Uson is one of the most vocal — and infamous — of Duterte’s supporters.
She first made a name for herself as a singer and dancer, gaining notoriety for blogging about sex and for being a favorite cover girl of men’s magazines. She gained national prominence for actively campaigning for the president during the 2016 Presidential elections.
After rising to power, Duterte appointed Uson as a board member of the Movie and Television Review and Classifications Board (MTRCB), the country’s national censor.
As a board member, she ignited a controversy for uploading a video on her Facebook page where she condemned shows that were allegedly unfit for viewing, without bringing the matter personally to other members of the MTRCB.
In May 2017, Duterte appointed her to the PCOO. Shortly after her appointment, netizens called for her removal from office using the hashtag #FireMocha, for regularly spreading disinformation on Facebook and Twitter.