The Philippine Star’s decision to hire Mocha Uson as a columnist received flak from netizens today, with many pointing out her lack of background in journalism.
It may seem like ancient history now, but there was a time when Margaux “Mocha” Uson was known merely as a sexy entertainer, similar to the likes of Sexbomb dancers Rochelle Pangilinan and Jopay Paguia or Wowowee girls Luningning, Milagring, and Mariposa. In fact, last September 2015, Uson and her backup dancers (“Mocha Girls”) were briefly arrested in Malaysia for performing without the necessary working permit.
Just two months after that embarassing episode, Uson began her meteoric rise from being a gyrating entertainer into the go-to social media personality of Rodrigo Duterte during the campaign and after he assumed the presidency. Uson’s group announced its support for the then-Davao City Mayor when he finalized his presidential bid by November, with the girls promising to quit doing sexy shows if he is elected.
Since then, Uson used her Facebook and Twitter page as a platform to promote Duterte’s candidacy and defend him if necessary. Perhaps as a reward, Uson performed during Duterte’s massive miting de avance in Luneta Park two days before the elections. Uson’s bet on Duterte paid off big time once he won the presidency.
Apart from getting exclusive interviews with the President-elect himself as well as other high-ranking government officials, she was even named as a social media consultant for the Bureau of Customs although it was abruptly revoked when netizens mocked the appointment.
How did this transition happen? To begin with, Uson already has a wide online fan base by virtue of her being a celebrity. Hence, she already has a built-in audience that will listen to her no matter what. Next, compared to other presidential candidates like Mar Roxas and Grace Poe, Duterte didn’t have a well-funded social media campaign organization in place. Therefore, surrogates like Uson, Senyora Santibanez, and other filled in that void.
Now, why did the Duterte administration opt to ride on Uson’s popularity by giving her access to the President himself as well as other high government officials – much to the chagrin of mainstream journalists? I present the following theories:
1) As an avowed Duterte supporter, Uson are expected to throw mere softballs instead of challenging questions to her inteviewees from the administration.
2) In relation to that, Uson will most likely present her reports in a manner highly favorable to the government.
3) And also, through Uson’s online platform, the government can easily reach her millions of followers – most of whom are probably administration supporters (Why else would they follow Mocha Uson, right?).
4) More importantly, Uson offers the Duterte administration a means to reach millions of Filipinos despite bypassing the filter of mainstream media outlets.
(This is the first of a two-part series. The second part will focus on Mocha Uson’s engagement in blogging and journalism.)