The Commission on Audit (CoA) report that flagged the “unrestricted” and “massive” hiring of 375 social media consultants by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) is considered “hard evidence” that the alleged government-funded troll farms exist, Vice President Leni Robredo said Sunday.
In her weekly radio program “BISErbisyong Leni,” Robredo said the internet trolls have started attacking the opposition in 2016 and said they have received reports that these trolls are government-funded but have no evidence to prove it.
“But recently, the CoA reported about PCOO hiring more than 300 social media consultants at a time where we have a pandemic. It seems like that (for) the first time, we have official evidence to prove that such claims are true,” she said.
She also welcomed Senate Resolution No. 768, a call to investigate the mass hiring of contractual service of the PCOO.
“For me, it should be really done, what are these trolls doing to us? They are making people fight. Ever since there has been opposition and administration but fights are not that serious,” she said.
“Since 2016, if you criticize the administration, you will be swarmed by these trolls. The right of the public to criticize is being taken away from them,” she added.
PCOO Undersecretary Kris Ablan denied claims that the agency hired trolls and reiterated that “social media specialists (do) not equate to trolls.”
He also said that the hiring of workers is necessary to accomplish “highly technical tasks.”
The Senate Resolution No. 768 signed by 12 senators including President Rodrigo Duterte known ally Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto, will go into the spending of government funds for the alleged creation of troll farms to target critics of the administration including the possible opponents in 2022.
Other senators who signed the proposed resolution are Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Richard “Dick” Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, and Joel Villanueva.
Last month, Lacson disclosed that his former staff revealed to him that he was approached by an undersecretary of an unnamed department who is currently organizing at least two troll farms per province.
The senator said the troll farm operation’s purpose is to discredit critics of the administration and possible opponents in the 2022 elections.