Garafil says no PCO trolls; media workers’ bill pushed


THE Presidential Communications Office does not harbor troll farms or troll armies, Secretary Cheloy V. Garafil told senators on Monday.

Garafil gave the assurance during the Senate subcommittee on finance hearing on the 2024 budget of the PCO and its attached agencies of P1.9 billion.

Garafil was asked by Senator JV Ejercito about the 1,479 PCO employees in the past administration who were suspected to be working as trolls or spreaders of fake news and misleading information in social media.

According to Garafil, PCO only has 363 employees, one contractual employee and 111 under a contract of service for whom the PCO is working to be included in the regular plantilla as it negotiates with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Garafil stressed that the main mandate of PCO is to provide effective communications for President Ferdinand R. Marcos and fight fake news.

In fact, she said, PCO launched a media information and literacy campaign in August precisely to combat fake news.

Media workers

Meanwhile, in another hearing, Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada sought to get accurate data on the number of employees in the media industry to ensure the successful implementation of the proposed Media Workers’ Welfare Act.

Estrada presided over the continuation of the Committee on Labor Employment and Human Resources Development hearing on Monday, on several proposals seeking to provide protection and benefits to media workers.

At the hearing, Sen. Raffy Tulfo, a broadcast industry practitioner for over two decades, stressed the need for the major television networks to remedy the widespread practice of keeping many workers under “talent” status even though they render regular duties. These “talents” do not get the usual benefits that the regular employees have, such as vacation and sick leaves, overtime pay, medical benefits.

Estrada, meanwhile, stressed that government agencies, particularly the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), should ensure the availability of accurate data on the number of employees in the media industry for the proper and effective implementation of the measure’s provisions.