Palace to Mocha: Anywhere but casinos

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SAYING that it was against the law, Malacañang on Friday discouraged Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson from singing and dancing in casinos but not in other venues where government personnel were not restricted.

“The law is clear and [Presidential Communications] Secretary [Martin] Andanar has discussed with [Assistant Secretary] Uson why we must discourage her from performing in casinos,” said Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella in a press briefing on Friday.

“The way we understand, she may have to fulfill a certain contract,” said Abella, as he reminded Uson that government employees were banned from casinos because “rightly or wrongly, casinos tend to convey extravagance and questionable ethical practices in the public mind. Hence, those in government must avoid being seen in such places.”

Abella added, however, that Uson was “free to continue to perform in other venues not restricted for government officials and personnel.”

Uson’s boss, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, echoed Abella.

“Si Mocha po ay isang presidential appointee at alam din po naman natin na ang Executve Secretary ang naglabas ng utos patungkol dun sa performance sa isang casino. The mere fact that a government [employee]goes to a casino ay ipinagbabawal (Mocha is a presidential appointee and we know that it was the Executive Secretary who released the order against government employees going to casinos. The mere fact that a government employee goes to a casino is prohibited),” Andanar said in an interview after the hearing of his office’s 2018 budget at the House of Representatives.

Pressed on whether the rule would also apply even when Uson was merely performing and not engaged in gambling activities, Andanar said that he would have to seek the legal opinion of the Office of the Executive Secretary or the Office of Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs on the matter.

“As far as I know, other performances of Mocha are ongoing and recently, with her performance in a casino and with the upload of videos, her performances became a hot issue,” he said.

Andanar also said that Uson had asked permission regarding her performances.

“Before [Assistant Secretary] Mocha entered the government, she asked permission from our office if she could honor her entertainment contracts, which we allowed as long as the law approved it,” he said.

Asked whether Uson would be penalized, Andanar said the possibility of preventive suspension would be up to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

Abella and Andanar issued statements after videos circulated on social media showing Uson performing with her girl group, Mocha Girls, at Bar 360 of Resorts World Manila in Pasay City.

Government officials and employees are banned from casinos by virtue of Presidential Decree 1067-B (series of 1977), as amended by PD 1869 (Series of 1983).

The prohibition is contained in Memorandum Circular 06 signed by Medialdea on Sept. 20, 2016.

The circular enjoined “all government officials and employees to strictly observe and comply with the prohibition against going to gambling casinos.”

Former palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda, on Twitter, wondered whether Uson would be sacked.

“The late LTO (Land Transportation Office) head Virgie Torres left office [because]she was in a casino. So was [Assistant Secretary] Mocha Uson. So, will Duterte or Andanar ask her to leave?” he said.

REINA C. TOLENTINO AND RALPH VILLANUEVA

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