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CALL OF DUTY

Mocha’s miles: 8 foreign trips in 10 months

/ 07:16 AM March 17, 2018
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Asec. Mocha Uson INQUIRER file photo

She has taken eight foreign trips, covering nine countries, since becoming a Malacañang official 10 months ago.

Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson has been going places—the latest of which was Italy in January, where she assisted Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in meetings with diplomats, according to the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).

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Communications Secretary Martin Andanar maintained that Uson’s trips, including the ones with Cayetano, were part of her duty to inform Filipinos about President Duterte’s programs and policies.

Uson was appointed assistant secretary in charge of social media in May 2017.

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“Her broad and deep reach through social media has proven to be effective in reaching Filipinos across the world,” Andanar said. “I allowed her to accompany Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano abroad to help connect with our countrymen and give out the message of the President, informing them of what the government is doing in the Philippines to make lives better for the Filipinos.”

 

FOI request

Of Uson’s foreign trips, four were with Mr. Duterte, according to travel records the Inquirer obtained from the PCOO through a freedom of information (FOI) request.

Uson also joined Cayetano twice—in Italy in January and in New York for the UN General Assembly and a meeting with the overseas Filipino community in September 2017.

She also flew to Japan for the Philippine Independence Day celebration in June and to the United Kingdom in August for the annual Barrio Fiesta event of the Filipino community.

Andanar said the Department of Foreign Affairs shouldered Uson’s plane fare and accommodations when she stayed in Italy from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1, while the PCOO shouldered her allowance.

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PCOO records showed that it spent P54,443.16 for her Italy trip.

The purpose of this trip was to “assist SFA Cayetano in the meetings of heads of missions/consulates,” said the PCOO.

PCOO expenses

For Uson’s visit to New York from Sept. 16 to 26, 2017 as a delegate to the UN General Assembly, the PCOO paid for her expenses, said Andanar. These amounted to P250,157.04.

The PCOO likewise shouldered the expenses for her trip to London from Aug. 3 to 12, 2017 for the Barrio Fiesta celebration, amounting to P201,635.63.

Her visit to Japan from June 9 to 14 cost the government P42,122.96.

Uson was with Mr. Duterte when he flew to Cambodia for the World Economic Forum, followed by a side trip to China from May 10 to 15, 2017. Her expenses for this trip amounted to P69,623.80.

She also joined him on his trip to Russia the same month, which was cut short by the Marawi City siege by Islamic State-allied militants. Her expenses for this trip totaled P45,910.13.

She went on a trip to Vietnam from Nov. 8 to 12, 2017, joining the entourage of the President who attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. That trip cost P23,386.65.

She also joined Mr. Duterte in India from Jan. 24 to 26 for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-India summit, the expenses for which amounted to P26,434.55.

Even before her appointment to the PCOO, Uson had already been joining the President’s foreign trips.

Limit to trips

In December last year, Mr. Duterte announced that he would limit the foreign trips of executive officials after firing an official for  alleged junkets. He also said he would order a review of their travel records.

Malacañang subsequently laid down the guidelines for the foreign travels of administration officials, saying they should be within the mandate of the concerned agency, avoid excessive expenses and bring substantial benefits to the country.

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TAGS: foreign travels, Mocha Uson, Philippine news updates, Presidential Communications Operations Office
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