PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has denied a report that his administration was using government funds to hire people to defend him on social media even after his election victory.
In a press conference after he delivered his State of the Nation Address on Monday, Duterte admitted paying online trolls but said this only happened during the campaign season and not after he was elected.
“I spent P10 million? Me? Maybe in the election. In the elections, more than that… And they were all during the campaign. Pero ngayon, hindi ko na kailangan [But now, I do not need it]. I do not need to defend myself from attacks. I’ve stated my peace during my inauguration and during the campaign. I am not anymore eligible for reelection,” Duterte said.
“Meron akong mga followers [I have followers],” he added, mentioning Margaux “Mocha” Uson, whom he appointed as assistant secretary for the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
“But Mocha has been with me during the campaign. She offered her services free,” the President said.
Duterte issued the statement in response to the results of an Oxford University study, which claimed that his team employed “keyboard trolls” during the May 2016 electoral campaign and has kept them on the payroll after his victory.
“[In] the Philippines, many of the so-called ‘keyboard trolls’ hired to spread propaganda for presidential candidate Duterte during the election continue to spread and amplify messages in support of his policies now he’s in power,” the study said.
Duterte, a reluctant presidential candidate, had been swept to power partly by strong support from social media netizens.