FORMER communications official and blogger Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson has been appointed as deputy administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Malacañang announced yesterday.
Uson’s appointment papers, signed by President Duterte on September 23, show that she will hold the rank of deputy executive director V (deputy administrator) of OWWA, an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
The name of Uson was among the list of appointees that the President named between September 23 and 25.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said Uson is not covered by the one-year appointment ban on candidates who ran in recent elections.
Under the 1987 Constitution, “no candidate, who has lost in any election, shall, within one year after an election, be appointed to any office in the government or any government-owned or controlled corporations or in any of their subsidiaries”.
Uson was one of the nominees of the AA Kasosyo party list that ran in the 2019 midterm elections. The group, however, lost.
“Per Comelec (Commission on Elections) resolution, party list nominees are not covered by the one year ban,” Panelo said.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said there was nothing illegal with the appointment of Mocha since she is not covered by the election ban.
“Candidates are the ones covered by the one-year ban. Party-list nominees are not covered,” said Jimenez, explaining that the party-list election system considers organizations as the candidates and not their nominees.
The clarification came even as Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said Uson’s appointment was illegal, citing the constitutional provision on defeated candidates being barred from assuming positions in government within one year after elections.
“This constitutional prohibition is applicable to party-list nominees and Mocha Uson, being the first nominee of AA KASOSYO Party-list, and who participated in the 2019 party-list elections, is covered by the one-year ban. So, her appointment as the Deputy Administrator of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is illegal and should not be enforced,” said Gaite.
Aside from the constitutional provision, Gaite also cited section 94 of the Local Government Code on the appointment of elective and appointive local officials and candidates who lost in an election states that: “No elective or appointive local official shall be eligible for appointment or designation in any capacity to any public office or position during his tenure.”
“Unless otherwise allowed by law or by the primary functions of his position, no elective or appointive local official shall hold any other office or employment in the government or any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations or their subsidiaries,” the provision also read.
Uson resigned as assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) in October 2018 to run as party-list representative.
During her stint as a member of the PCOO, Uson was popular for interacting and helping overseas Filipino workers. She will bring her expertise to her new appointment as OWWA is the government’s primary office in charge of helping Filipinos working abroad.
Prior to her job at the PCOO, Uson served as a member of the board of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
Uson is known in the social media industry because of her blogs. She actively campaigned for the President during the 2016 presidential elections.
She was the leader of the Mocha Girls group that had appeared in some movies and television shows in the past.
OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac welcomed Uson’s appointment. “I know Mocha to be a defender of OFW rights and welfare. So we look forward to working with her in furtherance of OFW rights, welfare, and interests,” said Cacdac in his Twitter account (@HansLeoCacdac).
Blas F. Ople Policy Center head Susan Ople urged Uson to prove her worth as an appointed official of OWWA by helping advance its cause for OFWs.
“OWWA is heavily understaffed and needs a lot of help in communicating its programs and services. I expect her to be on full learning mode and develop teamwork and camaraderie with the rest of the OWWA team. She is in a very good agency and I wish her the best of luck,” said Ople.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite claimed Uson’s appointment as was illegal.
Aside from Uson, the President also appointed the following: Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Defense Secretary Defin Lorenzana, and Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. as ex-officio members of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) who were all appointed last September 23; Ateneo de Manla University School of Science and Engineering professor Fabian Dayrit as member of the executive council of the National Science and Technology who was appointed last September 24; Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) acting director Edwin Villar as deputy executive director PCAARRD and Reynaldo Ebora as director of PCAARRD who were appointed last September 24. – With Gerard Naval and Wendell Vigilia