The Duterte administration does not employ trolls or people who spew hate speech or insults online or use Facebook for partisan purposes, a Palace official said on Wednesday.
Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque made the statement in connection with the US network’s MSNBC report taking Facebook to task for training campaign teams around the world, including that of President Rodrigo Duterte, on how to maximize the use of Facebook in political campaigns.
The raining resulted in Facebook publishing lies peddled by the camps and supporters of the candidates themselves, as well as the presence of plenty of pro-administration Facebook pages and Facebook accounts.
“We have today an Assistant Secretary for Social Media who as you know is Assistant Secretary [Margaret] Mocha Uson. We continue to utilize social media in promoting the accomplishments and the messages of the administration. Obviously, we don’t use it for partisan or political purposes because there’re no elections until 2022,” Roque said.
“If trolls are paid by the government, they wouldn’t have attacked me in the first place,” he added.
Roque was referring to tirades made by blogger Rey Joseph Nieto, who called for his resignation over his remark that the supporters of the President–including Nieto–should throw hollow blocks at critics of the government.
Nieto is under contract as head of strategic communications for the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs under the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Prior to Nieto’s call, Roque had said in an interview with Uson that as Palace spokesman, he will throw hollow blocks at those who will besmirch the name of President Rodrigo Duterte.
This comment by Roque is what prompted Nieto to say that hollow blocks should instead be thrown at journalists.
Uson and Nieto have also been very open in expressing their sentiments that former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is the legitimate Vice President in their Facebook accounts and blogs even if Marcos lost to now-Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo by 263,473 votes.
Uson and Nieto are also among the President’s supporters who call Robredo as a fake Vice President.
Still, Roque maintained there are no trolls in the government ranks.
“I can assure you that there is no budgetary line item for payment of trolls in the social media as far as this administration is concerned. [And] we find trolls of this nature also on the other side of the political fence defending the prior administration, attacking this administration,” he said.
“And again, I can only point to myself as living proof that there cannot be any official funding or even sanction on the activities of pro-Duterte trolls because had this been the case, then we would have prevented the vicious attacks against me,” Roque added.
Under Section 4, Article 3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”