MANILA – The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) will not tolerate fake news, its top official said Wednesday.
PCO Secretary Cheloy Garafil made this remark as she defended her appointment before the Commission on Appointments (CA).
During questioning, Senator Pia Hontiveros asked Garafil how the PCO would help combat fake news and disinformation.
“Ang fake news hindi ito-tolerate ng PCO. Actually, ina-abhor po namin ang fake news (The PCO does not tolerate fake news. Actually, we abhor fake news),” Garafil said.
She said the PCO and the Office of the President have themselves been victims of fake news.
“In the past several days madami pa ding fake news na naranasan po ang PCO at ng mga members ng OP kaya talaga po isa ito sa mga lalabanan natin sa aking termino bilang secretary ng PCO (In the past several days, the PCO and members of the OP encountered a lot of fake news that is why this is one of our priorities as secretary of the PCO),” she said.
Garafil said the PCO is set to implement a Digital Media Literacy campaign as part of efforts to address growing concerns over misinformation and disinformation, especially among vulnerable communities.
“Mayroon po kaming binubuo ng media literacy program. Ito po ay tutukan natin, pupunta po kami sa grassroots para tutukan itong problema ng fake news para wala na pong mabiktima at maturuan ang ating mga kababayan na maging mapanuri sa mga nakikita nila at nababasa nila sa social media (We will have a media literacy program. We will focus on this, we will go to the grassroots to focus on this problem of fake news so that no one will become a victim and teach our countrymen to be critical of what they see and read on social media),” she added.
She likewise said it was a “great honor” for her to be PCO Secretary and be in charge of enriching the public discourse on all matters of governance.
“Nang ako po ay tawagan ni Pangulong Marcos upang maging bahagi ng PCO, hindi po ako nagdalawang-isip. Sapagkat bilang isang dating journalist at public relations practitioner, batid ko kung gaano kahalaga ang papel ng PCO sa pagsiguro na maipahatid sa publiko ang tamang impormasyon ukol sa mga programa at polisiya ng gobyerno (When President Marcos called me to be part of the PCO, I did not hesitate. Because as a former journalist and public relations practitioner, I know how important the role of the PCO is in ensuring that the correct information about government programs and policies is conveyed to the public),” she said in her opening statement.
Garafil recognized that being PCO Secretary will be a “tough endeavor,” especially in the age of fake news.
“In a time when information is readily available at the click of a finger, there is also proliferation of fake news. We, at PCO, have to make sure and likewise watch ourselves to ensure that we only share facts and truth,” she added.
Meanwhile, Hontiveros asked Garafil to comment on whether vloggers and other social media practitioners may be accredited to cover the President and Malacañang events.
“Ang pag-aaccredit sa ating mga vloggers ay patuloy po nating pinag-aaralan. Kasama po yan sa ating mga programa na pinag-aaralan po ngayon. So, in time po kapag nagkaroon na kami ng malawakang pag-aaral, ibibigay po namin ang aming sagot (We continue to study the accreditation of vloggers. It is one of the programs we are currently reviewing. So in time, after we have thoroughly reviewed this, we will give our answer) with respect to that issue,” she said.
Garafil likewise assured the appointments panel that the PCO will protect the rights of all their employees.
“Nais nating siguruhin na sa pag-reorganize at pag-aayos ng PCO at attached agencies ay ating maprotektahan ang karapatan ng ating mga empleyado (We want to make sure that by reorganizing and organizing the PCO and attached agencies, we will protect the rights of our employees),” she added.
The CA confirmed the ad interim appointment of Garafil without any opposition.
In a statement, Garafil thanked the CA members and her former colleagues in the media industry for supporting her appointment.
“I am honored and humbled by the show of support for my confirmation as PCO Secretary. Special thanks to the members of the Commission on Appointments for their vote of confidence. It is truly an honor,” Garafil said.
“Also a profound expression of gratitude to my former colleagues, and now partners in media for their kind words. Tunay kayong inspirasyon upang mas lalo ko pang pagbutihin ang aking sinumpaang tungkulin. At sa ating mahal na Pangulo, Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., maraming salamat Mr. President sa napalaking karangalan na makapaglingkod sa inyo at kasama niyo para sa sambayanang Pilipino. (You are truly an inspiration to better perform my sworn duty. To our beloved President, Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., thank you very much Mr. President, it is a great honor to be able to serve you and work with you for the Filipino people,” she added.
On its official social media pages, the PCO expressed elation after Garafil breezed through the appointments panel.
“Binabati natin si Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil para sa pormal na pagtatalaga ng Commission on Appointments sa kanya bilang PCO Secretary. Tunay ngang siya’y mabuting ehemplo sa kanyang kapwa lingkod-bayan, lalong lalo na sa mga kababaihan (We congratulate Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil for the Commission on Appointments' formal designation of her as PCO Secretary. She is truly a good example to fellow public servants, especially to women),” the PCO said.
Humble gov’t official
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri described Garafil as a very humble government official, noting that this is also the first time that the media vouched for her credibility as former beat reporter in the Senate.
“1,000 percent support to this lady. In one of our trips, I saw her, walang tulog, nakaupo lang sa isang kanto, (Sleepless, seated in one corner) and that the Secretary very low profile. She is very well loved and liked, Maam we are for you, congratulate you for your demeanor. God bless you,” Zubiri said.
In his sponsorship speech, CA chairperson, Negros Representative Manuel Sagarbarria said Garafil is not new to the job, being a journalist for several years, a private public relations practitioner, a lawyer, a state prosecutor and a private practitioner and an officer of the Director of the House of Representatives Committee on Rules.
“She is committed with truth,” Sagarbarria said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda said Garafil is a competent leader and a holder of a Masters in national security.
“She will lead to a more transparent PCO as a premiere communication of the government,” she added.
Garafil took her oath as PCO Secretary in January this year.
Prior to her current post, she was officer-in-charge (OIC) and Undersecretary of the now-defunct Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) since October last year.
Garafil also served as chairperson of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board but resigned to accept Marcos' offer to serve as OPS OIC and Undersecretary.
She was also a prosecutor and state solicitor under the Justice Department and the Office of the Solicitor General, respectively.
Garafil worked as a journalist for over a decade. She also worked as a media officer of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (with reports from Leonel Abasola/PNA)