Morato: New PCSO has PR to manage image
“I challenge the present PCSO board to disclose their expenses for PR [public relations],” said Manuel Morato on Thursday as he sought to turn the tables on the current board of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
“I have obtained a document that they engaged in PR and paid for the media for the reputation management of Chair Margarita Juico, which is illegal,” Morato told the Senate blue ribbon committee.
Morato was a director of the PCSO board under the Arroyo administration which had been accused in the Senate hearings of misusing the agency’s funds. The accusations were based on documents released by the incumbent board.
The former PCSO chair yesterday showed reporters a document indicating that barely a few months in office, the current PCSO board chaired by Juico hired a PR company to “manage its reputation” for three months last year.
Morato made the unexpected remark while being grilled by Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada over whether the allocation of PCSO’s charity funds for blood money for the relatives of migrant workers killed in the Middle East was authorized by its charter.
The blue ribbon committee chairman, Senator Teofisto Guingona III, cut Morato off and told him there would be a proper time for this.
Morato later gave reporters a photocopy of a billing invoice sent by the company eon Stakeholder Relations Firm to the PCSO and of eon’s scope of work.
According to the invoice, dated Oct. 12, 2010, the PCSO was being billed P181,500 (less withholding tax of P3,300) for public affairs and reputation management for that month. The bill was addressed to PCSO and Juico.
Another document about the scope of work and budget proposal of eon showed the project would last from October 2010 to December 2010, and that the monthly fee would be P184,800, for a total of P554,400.
An indecipherable signature appears at the bottom of this document above the name of Juico, signifying agreement to the scope of work, fees and terms.
Juico distanced herself from the matter when questioned by Estrada. She said PCSO general manager Ferdinand Rojas II, who is in Hong Kong, was in a better position to explain the issue.
Juico said the signature was not hers but Rojas’. She said she did not give him the authority to sign the document on her behalf, adding that she said she did not know about the contract.
“I have no knowledge of it,” Juico said when asked about “reputation management.”
“Probably it was used for PR of the office. It’s taken out of the PR fund,” Juico said.
Since Rojas was not around, the committee decided to tackle the issue again at its next hearing.
Morato said the PCSO charter allowed the agency to engage a PR agency to promote its products, such as lotto and sweepstakes, but not to burnish its own image or that of its officials.
“That’s illegal,” Morato told reporters.
Juico, however, admitted that media practitioner Dante Ang was the PCSO’s PR consultant and that he was being paid P25,000 a month.
Morato believed that Ang was the person referred to by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago in her speech before the start of Wednesday’s hearing.
“They really enjoyed the scandal, so they could pin us down and pin down President Gloria. They spent for that story. Dante Ang is the one running the PR of PCSO,” Morato claimed.
Santiago had pointed to a media practitioner as the architect of a media spin that put Roman Catholic bishops at the center of the fund scandal, and divert attention from more anomalous transactions in the PCSO.
“There is at least one media practitioner who has been going around, at least in the print media, emphasizing the so-called bishop controversy,” Santiago said.
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