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What official weight do tweets have?

EDITORIAL

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E CARTOON JAN 24, 2019Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III asked government officials last Saturday to avoid posting comments on social media on official matters involving their positions in government, in the wake of the imbroglio over the issuance of passports by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Twitter posts by Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. figured prominently in the passport dispute. “We are rebuilding files from scratch because previous outsourced passport maker took all the data contract terminated,” the secretary said in his personal Twitter account. In another post, he vowed: “I will autopsy the yellows who did the passports deal alive. This is called evisceration.”

Last Tuesday, the secretary tweeted a clarification: “Data is not runawayable. But made inaccessible.” The DFA thus withdrew its previous call on those renewing their passports to present official birth certificates.

Senator Pimentel welcomed the clarification but said the Senate will continue its inquiry as there is another government agency whose service provider also has custody of data. It was at this point that he appealed to government officials not to turn to social media on issues concerning the government as it is hard to retract statements made on Twitter.

This is probably the first time there has been some reaction to the practice of tweeting by a Philippine government official. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has been at it for years, commenting on every issue involving his presidency.

On his demand for funds to build a wall across the US-Mexico border, Trump tweeted his position repeatedly. In one of his tweets, he said: “We’re going to have safety. We need safety for our country, even from this standpoint. We have terrorists coming through the southern border.” At another time: “This isn’t about the Wall. Everybody knows that Wall will work perfectly…. This is only about the Dems not letting Donald Trump & the Republicans have a win….”

Among his latest tweets early this month, he said he “won perhaps the greatest election of all time” and that he has “done nothing wrong (no collusion with Russia. It was the Dems that colluded).” In still another tweet, he said he “had the most successful first two years of any president” and that he was the “most popular Republican in party history 93%. “

Most Americans have probably learned to ignore these tweets but they raise question of what official importance should be given them. Normally, presidential statements are taken as official government policy. But there is doubt if these daily tweets on a variety of subjects have any official standing.

Senator Pimentel may have had a similar doubt in his mind when he asked Philippine government officials to avoid issuing statements on Twitter and other social media. At the very least, his suggestion merits some study.

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