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Senators seek probe of troll farms that spread fake news

TWELVE senators on Monday filed a resolution seeking to investigate reports that public funds were being used to boost the operations of state-backed troll farms that spread fake information on social media.

“Filipinos should know why the government spends public funds on troll farm operators disguised as public relations practitioners and ‘social media consultants who sow fake news,” according to Senate Resolution 768.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III and Senators Ralph G. Recto and Franklin M. Drilon filed the resolution.

Senators Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay, Leila M. de Lima, Richard J. Gordon, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Panfilo M. Lacson, Emmanuel D. Pacquiao, Francis N. Pangilinan, Grace Poe-Llamanzares and Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva also backed the resolution.

State auditors have flagged the hiring of 375 contract workers in 2020 by the Presidential Communications Operations Office, which denied having hired trolls.

The palace office said the workers performed tasks that were highly technical, including positions for videographers, editors, directors and social media specialists.

In its annual report, the Commission on Audit (CoA) said the “unrestricted and massive” hiring of the workers cost the office P70.6 million, “which could have been used for other programs and projects of the government.”

The workers accounted for 70% of the agency’s total workforce, state auditors said. The PCOO had 144 regular employees last year.

CoA also found that PCOO had no written guidelines on the hiring of employees, particularly under a contract of service.

The identification of people to be hired rests directly upon the request of the department heads and other agency officials, COA noted. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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