Metro Manila Development Authority spokesperson Celine Pialago lashed out against people supporting detained activist Reina Mae Nasino following the heavily guarded wake and funeral of her daughter last week.
Pialogo was reacting to incidents involving Nasino and her three-month-old daughter whom she was not able to spend last moments with before the baby, suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome, lost her life.
“Happy Sunday everyone! Walang kinalaman sa traffic pero sa tingin ko kailangan kong gamitin ang bosses ko bilang isang Pilipino sa usapin na ito,” Pialago wrote.
“‘Hindi lahat ng inang nakakulong ay nakapunta sa libing ng kanyang anak. Kaya ‘yung mga sumisimpatya kay Reina Mae Nasino, pag-aralan niyo mabuti ang dahilan bakit siya nakulong at kilalanin niyong mabuti kung sino siya sa lipunan,'” she added.
“Masyado niyong ginagawang pang drama serye sa hapon ang pinaghihinagpis niya. Tigilan niyo!” the spokesperson further added.
The case of Nasino and her child
Nasino is part of the urban poor organization Katipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap or Kadamay.
She was arrested in a raid conducted in an office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) last year and was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, an accusation which her lawyers claim was made up.
When Nasino found out that she was pregnant with her firstborn child, River Emmanuel, she pleaded for the Supreme Court to be temporarily released from jail since she was considered at high risk of catching the coronavirus disease in a cramped place.
This was denied and the young activist failed to be with her daughter whom her lawyers said she wasn’t able to breastfeed, considered a child’s basic right.
Baby River eventually developed an illness and lost her life, without her mother being able to take care of her especially in her final days.
Meanwhile, Pialago’s statement earned the ire of Filipinos, including outspoken actor Enchong Dee who called her “heartless and unintelligent.”
This person is Heartless and Unintelligent. Ilagay mo ang sarili mo sa kalagayan ng isang ina at mangyari to sayo.
Bilang isang tao… ok lang talaga sayo?? pic.twitter.com/KPLGPk4HuB
— Enchong Dee (@enchongdee777) October 18, 2020
The lawyer’s group representing Nasino also responded to Pialago’s comments and said that they will “never ever” wish for her to experience the “horrible tragedy and injustice” that has beset the activist and her family.
70 social media admins?
Meanwhile, there were others who noticed that Pialago’s Facebook page has allegedly “70 admins” or administrators following some screenshots of supposed online exchanges.
Wala talagang puso. Pinanindigan pa. Tigas mo! pic.twitter.com/M01c0WCtyL
— Mark Makalalad (@MMakalalad) October 18, 2020
This prompted them to question if the public official is using taxpayers’ money to fund the high number of supposed page administrators.
“Wow. 70 admins. Who pays those peeps?” senior radio correspondent Rowena Salvacion of dzBB said in response to a post sharing an alleged screenshot of Pialago’s administrator comments.
“Let this be on [the] record. MMDA Asec. Celine Pialago, a cabinet official, has 70 admins for her social media page. Who’s paying?” journalist Barnaby Lo tweeted.
“70 admins n’ya? So 71 silang sabaw? May troll farm si ateng. Daming funds!” claimed another Twitter user.
“Is there any reasonable need for SEVENTY admins for a Facebook account? And how do we know which t̶r̶o̶l̶l̶ admin is adding which post in her Facebook account?” another Filipino asked.
A different Twitter account also juxtaposed two supposed screenshots in which one of Pialago’s administrators had allegedly denied that there were “70” of them handling the page.
Asec mukhang hindi magkasundo ang 70 mong admins sa comment. Charot! pic.twitter.com/uNxAq9tmmC
— Charot! (@IamCharotism) October 18, 2020
Talent manager Ogie Diaz likewise shared another supposed screenshot from an administrator and questioned if a “troll” was running the page.
Asec ba ito talaga o Troll? pic.twitter.com/qSeM6ktjwu
— ogie diaz (@ogiediaz) October 18, 2020
A law school graduate reminded Pialago that as a public official, she is bound to follow the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees or Republic Act 6713.
He cited Section 4 which enumerates the “norms of conduct of public officials and employees” that they are expected to uphold as persons in the government.
Traits include “commitment to public interest, professionalism, justness and sincerity, political neutrality, responsiveness to the public, nationalism and patriotism, commitment to democracy” and “simple living.”
“The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees mandates every public official or employee to observe professionalism and political neutrality. Undeniably, these posts are not something that exhibit those standards of personal conduct,” the law school graduate said with screenshots of Pialago’s posts.
Another Twitter user said that he was not surprised at the supposed “troll”-like machinations behind Pialago’s page and said that such an initiative is popular under President Rodrigo Duterte‘s administration.
The chief executive himself was revealed to spent “around 10 million” to hire trolls tasked to spread “propaganda” and target the oppositions, based on a study by the University of Oxford.
“The study said that Duterte’s team of 400 to 500 cyber troops post nationalistic and pro-government comments and interact with dissenters through harassment and individual targeting. Membership in cyber troop teams in the Philippines is ‘liminal’ but with some coordination,” Philstar.com reported in 2017.
“Popular forms of individual targeting involve ‘verbal abuse, hate speech, discrimination and/or trolling against the values, beliefs or identity of a user or a group of users online’ usually over a long duration,” it added.
Pialago on Monday denied the claims and said that she has seven instead of 70 administrators and that they are not being paid with taxpayers’ money.
“Meron po akong pito, ‘no. Pinagalitan ko na ho ‘yan. Actually, younger brother ko po ‘yung isang sumasagot. Dinelete ko na ‘yon, ‘di ko alam kung ba’t naging 70 ‘yun….” she said in an interview.
“It’s an honest mistake from my younger brother… Wala po akong pinapasahod na admin, most of them, personal assistant, staff and two brothers,” Pialago added.
It’s ‘personal opinion’
Following Pialago’s controversial Facebook post, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said that he has already talked to her and clarified that her views are “not the stand” of the agency.
“This is not the stand of MMDA. Kung may personal opinion siya, it’s her right to say that. She is responsible enough to handle it,” he said on Monday.
Pialago also addressed the criticisms and clarified what she meant in her viral post.
“Kung mag-apologize po ako sa salita na ‘drama serye,’ sa paghihinagpis niya bilang isang ina, I’m sorry but for who you are, kung sino ka, kung bakit ka maraming security, that I won’t apologize. But for the ‘drama serye’ na akala po ay tinutulugsa kita bilang isang nagluluksang ina, that I am sorry but for the rest of my post, hindi po,” she said, as quoted by reports.