“When all else fails,” Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson once wrote in her Philippine Star column, “we can only rely on the facts.”
“But these days the facts themselves can be repackaged into falsities and rumors,” she added.
Yet Uson, the controversial dancer-turned-blogger-turned-public official who resigned as presidential communications assistant secretary Oct. 3, has a long history of disregard for the facts.
Many times, she has made false claims and peddled fake news in her column or her Facebook page Mocha Uson Blog which to date counts 5.7 millions followers.
Let’s revisit the trail:
MOCHA USON’S FALSE CLAIMS
On Duterte’s term extension
Statement: On July 4, 2017, in her newspaper column, Uson wrote she hopes President Rodrigo Duterte extends his term as president “by any means” possible.
Fact: The 1987 Constitution limits Duterte’s term of office to six years, and disqualifies him from seeking reelection.
On the use of ‘alleged’ as defense against libel
Statement: Threatened with a libel case and eventually sued by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who accused her of spreading fake news about his supposed offshore accounts, Uson posted a video Sept. 12, 2017 on her Facebook page claiming her use of the word “alleged” frees her of liability.
Fact: It does not. In general, the literal truth or falsity of a libelous remark is immaterial, and courts only consider the overall effect of the statement in question.
On federalism and unitary countries
Statement: In her Aug. 3 column, Uson claimed the Philippines is “the only nation in Southeast Asia that is under a unitary form of government.”
Fact: All of Southeast Asia have unitary countries with power concentrated at the center, except for Malaysia, which has a federal government.
Statement: An online “game show” whose video Uson posted on her Facebook page Aug. 2 featured, among others, her and a co-host punning “federalism” and the Filipino words for female genitals and breasts and a supposed explainer claiming the U.S., France and Singapore are federal countries.
Fact: The U.S. has a federal form of government. Singapore and France have unitary governments.
On Mayon Volcano’s location
Statement: Uson relocated Mount Mayon to Naga City in a live video on Facebook on Jan. 24 in which she asked bashers to focus on pressing issues other than the award the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Award had conferred on her for government service.
On the protest rally of St. Scholastica’s College students
Statement: Uson said in several blog posts on Nov. 18, 2016 that grade school children of St. Scholastica’s college were being requiredto join protest actions against the hero’s burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Fact: Students and alumnae of the university assailed the proliferation of the false reports which, they said, led to the cyberbullying of students.
FALSE AND MISLEADING REPORTS MOCHA USON SHARED ONLINE
In the same Philippine Star column where she ostensibly defended facts, Uson defended Good News Network PH.
She described the online content aggregator as “a page that is active in documenting the progress of various government activities and its achievements for the Filipino public to see on a real time basis.”
Yet Good News Network PH, created on Nov. 25, 2017, has been flagged by VERA Files Fact Check for using fake photos and provocative but inaccurate headlines.
Uson has been the top traffic generator of Good News Network PH’s misleading stories, including one about the Duterte administration’s Boracay cleanup which used an old and deceptive thumbnail photo of a polluted beach.
Other misleading Good News Network PH posts shared by Uson shared and flagged by VERA Files Fact Check:
- Pangilinan DID NOT say attacks against Robredo and former tourism chief Jimenez ‘not right’
- Story about anti-Duterte blog MISLEADS by using unrelated photo and outdated tweet
- Story about Bam Aquino saying he will be ‘voice and protector’ of Filipinos MISLEADING
- Story claiming EU Socialist Party official to “meddle more aggressively in PH” misleading
Good News Network PH is no longer active after it was repeatedly called out by fact checkers for purveying wrong and misleading claims.
In May, Uson shared a false report by a website called resurgent.ph, which claimed majority of Filipinos are in favor of a shift to a federal form of government, twisting the results of a Pulse Asia survey on charter change.
The false report could have reached more than 14.9 million people, social media analytics tools show.
Uson has also generated social media traffic to a fake report posted by the state-run Philippine News Agency, which she shared in May 2017.
The fake report claimed 95 nations during the 27th Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council were convinced that there were no extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
Other fake news shared by Uson has been documented and debunked elsewhere:
- On Aug. 27, 2016, she shared a post by a Duterte supporter showing a photo of a girl supposedly raped and murdered, but was taken in Brazil, and criticized human rights advocates for not condemning the incident. (Inquirer, Rappler, GMA News)
- In March 2017, she cited Article 263 of the Constitution in a blog post about the tax evasion case faced by Mighty Corp. The 1987 Constitution only has 18 articles. (Inquirer, Memebuster, GMA News)
- On May 28, 2017, she drew flak for using a photo of Honduran armed forces passed of as Filipino soldiers in Marawi. She later dismissed the inaccuracy as “symbolism.” (Inquirer, CNN Philippines, GMA News)
- On Aug. 22, 2017, Uson shared an article about the death of a police officer, daring Vice President Leni Robredo and opposition senators Bam Aquino, Antonio Trillanes and Risa Hontiveros to attend the wake. The report was one year old. (Inquirer, Philippine Star, Memebuster)
- On Oct. 25, 2017, she posted a misleading photo of Marawi City, praising the government for its supposed cleanup efforts after the siege ended, except the photo was taken on the third day of the siege. (Rappler, Memebuster)
Inquirer, Mocha Uson to defend Duterte against misinformation in media, May 11, 2017
Rappler, Photo used by Duterte camp to hit critics taken in Brazil, not PH, Aug. 29, 2016
GMA News, Roque reiterates gov’t employees should not be singled out for fake news, March 15, 2018
Memebuster, Busted: Mocha slammed for making erroneous post about “Article 263 of Constitution”, March 24, 2017
GMA News, Poe to Mocha: Don’t share posts without vetting sources of info, Oct. 4, 2017
Inquirer, Mocha embroiled in another fake news controversy, May 31, 2017
CNN Philippines, Asec. Mocha Uson on spread of alleged inaccurate photo: It’s symbolism, May 30, 2017
GMA News, Mocha Uson defends FB post using photo of Honduras police, says it’s symbolism, May 31, 2017
Inquirer, Mocha Uson dares Robredo to visit wake of slain cop – a year after death, Aug. 22, 2017
Philippine Star, ‘Fire Mocha’ trends after PCOO asec’s latest gaffe, Aug. 23, 2017
Memebuster, #FireMocha trends after Uson dares Robredo to visit wake of cop killed over a year ago, Aug. 23, 2017
Rappler, Mocha Uson on defensive over misleading Marawi photo from PCOO-managed page, Oct. 23, 2017
Memebuster, Busted: Rappler hits Uson for using Marawi photo taken by Rappler
correspondent; Uson explains mistake behind her post, Oct. 23, 2017.
Philippine Star, VERA Files: Fact-checker or fact-blocker?, June 5, 2018
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Will St. Scho sue Mocha Uson?, Nov. 28, 2016
Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Mayon Volcano