The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) on Tuesday assured there are no “trolls” in the agency’s hiring of 375 contract of service (COS) workers in 2020.
During the House appropriations committee hearing on the PCOO’s budget for 2022, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said the 375 COS personnel the agency hired last year could have been used as “ghost employees” or social media trolls.
PCOO undersecretary Kristian Ablan, however, said the hired COS personnel were not trolls.
“We assure that none of the 375 were part of a troll farm in social media. We define a troll as a person who posts negative comments inciting negativity,” Ablan said. “We assure that there are no trolls hired doon sa 375. All of them are personnel providing specific tasks for the PCOO.”
Ablan also said the number of COS workers has decreased from 375 to 301, saying that PCOO is working on increasing the number of plantilla positions.
“That number will continue to be reduced as we will be absorbing many of the contracts of service to the plantilla positions recently granted to us by the Department of Budget and Management,” he said.
State auditors earlier questioned the PCOO for hiring 375 COS employees for public relations work in 2020 that led to expenses of over PHP70.6 million for their salaries.
Out of the PCOO’s total workforce of over 500, only 144 are regular employees while the rest are contractual.
The proposed budget for the PCOO next year amounts to P1.91 billion, which is 18 percent higher compared to the P1.62-billion budget this year.
In the proposed budget, the PCOO proper has the largest share amounting to P740.2 million, followed by the Bureau of Broadcast Services (BBS) at P456.03 million, and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) at P333.54 million.
The Presidential Broadcast Staff Radio-TV Malacañang (PBS-RTVM) gets the fourth largest share at P171.86 million, followed by the News and Information Bureau (NIB) at P129.20 million, and the Bureau of Communications Services (BCS) at P70.59 million. Meanwhile, the National Printing Office (NPO) will get P9.13 million.
The agency also allocated subsidies to its government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) amounting to almost P178.63 million. Of this amount, P104.94 million go to the People’s Television Network (PTV-4) to support its operations in offering better quality of programs; while P73.69 million will go to the Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC-13) to support its maintenance and other operating expenses.
This brings the total agency budget and GOCC subsidy to P2.09 billion.