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Mocha must go? The Yellows wish!

“MOCHA must go” was the title of this newspaper’s editorial the other day, with the obvious topic.

I had to check again that the editorial was really in this newspaper and not in the Yellow Philippine Daily Inquirer as that has been the Yellows’ fervent wish ever since President Duterte assumed power. That editorial would have followed up that paper’s recent story that there is an alleged “outrage” against her for her “pepedederalismo” episode.

Assistant Secretary Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson has been the Yellows’ nightmare ever since she supported Duterte during the electoral campaign. Her role in forming public opinion has been tremendous, and growing.

Even if one considers that “pepedederalismo” thing as a huge gaffe, “debasing the federalism discourse,” as the editorial pompously put it, it certainly can’t ignore Uson’s huge role in rallying Filipinos —whether you like it or — in support of Duterte’s administration and its radical reform programs.

If you’ve been following Uson’s blog, it’s just been one of her many very educational postings on federalism. The sanctimonious outrage against that “pepedederalismo” and the demand for her to be fired is of the same genre as the Yellows’ paroxysms over Duterte’s “Stupid God” description of the biblical deity. Have some sense of humor, guys.

Our ambassador to the UN, and Cory Aquino’s spokesman Teodoro Locsin, Jr. even found that controversial post very useful to the national discourse: “Nobody was paying attention to federalism except its critics who didn’t bother to read the proposal. Maybe thanks to Mocha they will,” Locsin said in a series of tweets.

5.7 million followers not something to pooh-pooh.

But we could debate until kingdom come on the propriety or vulgarity of that posting. However, to put things in perspective which could clarify our thinking, consider the following facts. 

5.7 million followers
Mocha’s Facebook Page (Mocha Uson blog) as of today has 5.7 million followers. Yes, nearly 6 million, making it one of the biggest Facebook accounts in this country. That means that when she posts something, for example, like “Never vote an Aquino into the Senate again,” at least 6 million Filipinos are likely to read it – and probably remember it on election day next year. Ok, argue that 6 million is really a theoretical figure given Facebook’s system. But I would bet that that Mocha would reach at least one million Filipinos — something that would certainly affect an electoral outcome.

In short, with her Facebook page’s 6 million followers, Mocha can communicate with more Filipinos than all of the newspapers (including tabloids) and TV news programs combined. Yet the Manila Times editorial claims “Uson is no longer an asset to the Duterte administration, despite her much touted millions of followers”? Whoever wrote that obviously is living in the 1960s, before the age of the Internet and social media.

There are of course celebrities like Anne Curtis and Maine Mendoza who have twice, even thrice that number of followers. But these obviously have such huge followings because of Filipinos’ thirst for free entertainment and obsession with the life of TV and movie celebrities. Mocha’s is the only Facebook page and blog with such magnitude of followers that devotes much of its postings to governance and politics.

The Manila Times writer of that editorial was livid over one posting in Mocha’s blog. Obviously, he hasn’t been following her blog. I roughly estimate that she has posted over 5,000 items explaining to her millions of followers not just what Duterte’s administration has been doing but explaining issues affecting our national life, from the anti-drug war to even the proposed second phase of Duterte’s tax reform program.

For instance, the other day she posted a video of her interview with lawyer Glenn Chong explaining how Smartmatic got to transmit election returns a day before election today. It had 870,000 views and 24,000 shares. That is more than the 100,000 combined circulation of the country’s three big broadsheets that have ignored the allegations.

Secretary Martin Andanar should fire the head of the Philippine Information Agency, Harold Clavite — who reportedly had been close to Yellow Cult leaders like Bam Aquino — for the incompetence he has displayed in demanding that Mocha resign over that pepedederalismo thing.

If Clavite had an iota of competence in his job of disseminating information, he would have long realized Mocha’s blog reaches more Filipinos than the PIA with its 1,000 staff and offices all around the country. This egoistic nincompoop should have begged Mocha long ago to post PIA’s articles in her blog, so they would reach six million Filipinos.

Mocha’s reach is growing. Mocha had focused these past years on her blog, apparently migrated into her Facebook page. That was auspicious, since Facebook, most social media analysts claim, has been the lower classes’ preferred social-media platform. (Indeed, even my regular golf caddy has two Facebook accounts.) Apparently though she’s started to be active in Twitter, the upper-classes’ preferred platform with her followers now numbering 160,000, up from just 80,000 about a year ago.

Mocha has even moved very successfully, and quickly into traditional media, by writing a weekly column in the Philippine Star. I had been a skeptic over her ability to do so, and indeed until early this year, there were no more than 20 shares on her columns.

Her columns’ reach has overtaken that of her colleagues in the Star who have been writing for decades.

But just in the past three months, “shares” of her columns — or when a viewer transmits it to his own Facebook time-line or twitter account, thereby multiplying the number of people reading it — have zoomed, with an average of 5,000 shares for each of her 20 most recent columns. (I get about 2,000 on the average, with some “hot columns” though registering about 40,000 shares). Her column for instance entitled “The downfall of Poe’s political future” had a phenomenal 24,000 shares. Multiply that figure by four to five times, and you’d get a good estimate how many people read the piece — around 100,000.

Guess how many shares on the average the other Star columns register? Not more than 20, except occasionally for columns of Federico Pascual who’s been writing his column for over 30 years. In just a year, Mocha has overtaken by miles her colleagues in the Star, who have been writing columns for decades. With those metrics of “shares,” hers have become the most widely read opinion pieces today. And the Manila Times editorial claims she is no longer an asset to the Duterte administration?

Unique phenomenon
It would take another column to dissect why Mocha has become, to use the term of a news site that is hardly one, a thought leader, in fact, one of the most influential thought leaders today: Her building up of a base based on entertainment and even sex-education videos, her jumping into social media very early with her blog online in 2006, her sex appeal, her grasp of what is interesting to the masses, her stance of not being quarrelsome (she even posted a selfie of her with one of her vitriolic critics Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th), her non-elite aura appealing to ordinary Filipinos, her extensive use of videos reporting her interviews with newsmakers, and of course the dynamics of the new, unexpected expanding world of social media.

With all these varied complex factors, Mocha is a unique phenomenon — who can’t easily be replicated — old-timers in media have been unable to understand. She has become Duterte’s most powerful weapon in these days’ intense propaganda war

And the Manila Times editorial wants Duterte to fire her?

Duterte must instead appoint her as Presidential Social Media Adviser with the rank of secretary, and a member of the Cabinet, relieved of any routine administrative work so her tasks will consist solely of expanding her Facebook, Twitter, and newspaper column’s reach. Duterte must mobilize resources for Mocha to increase her blog’s followers to at least 10 million in a year’s time, which will require the use of expensive internet technology, the kind the formerly foreign-funded, now Yellow-financed, Rappler has been employing.

That would make the Yellows totally insane.


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