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Does Gov't Hire Trolls? Senators Quiz PCOO on P1.9-B Budget

Palace communications arm defends its 2022 ask from state coffers.
by Erwin Colcol
Sep 16, 2021
Photo/s: Shutterstock

The Presidential Communications Operations Office on Thursday denied to senators that it was employing internet trolls as it defended its P1.91-billion budget proposal for 2022.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon raised suspicion during the hearing that the PCOO's contractual 1,479 contractual workers might be trolls on the government payroll. The Commission on Audit earlier flagged the agency's "unrestricted" and "massive" hiring of 375 contractuals last year for P70 million.

Out of 3,883 plantilla or regular positions in the agency, 1,776 have yet to be filled, PCOO USec. Kris Ablan said. For the entire PCOO, there are 1,479 personnel hired with contract of service status, of which 330 are working in the PCOO proper, he said.

"Dito yung mga troll, ano?" Drilon asked lightly, to which Ablan replied: "Wala po kaming trolls."

"Hindi mo naman aaminin na may troll kayo," Drilon told Ablan.

Even as he took the matter in jest, Drilon raised his concern over hiring of contractual personnel. Ablan admitted that the PCOO spent P76 million for contract hires as against P117 million for regular positions.

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"Don't you find this a little odd that you have 1,776 vacancies but you hired 1,479 contract of service or what we call trolls?" Drilon asked.

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"Is this the correct way of using your funds? Why can't you hire and fill up your unfilled positions?" he added.

Ablan said the PCOO had started filling up the vacant positions. It is also ready to absorb the contractual employees by January 2022 if they are qualified.

Drilon asked for proof that the 1,479 contract of service workers are "legitimate and existing" by asking the PCOO to submit their records, including their names, addresses and job description. Sen. Nancy Binay also asked for their daily time record.

Ablan said the PCOO would comply with the order but would seek first the opinion of their legal office if the addresses can be provided as this could violative the Data Privacy Act.

Drilon told Ablan not to invoke confidentiality as the information they are requesting involves public funds.

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“These are public records and you are asking for public funds. You better provide us with these documents that we need in order for us to be convinced that this budget will be properly used,” he said.

The PCOO is proposing a P1.91 billion budget for next year, which is 18% higher than their P1.62 billion appropriations this year.

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