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No place in government

All of us are entitled to our own opinions, but the spokesperson for a major front-line government agency ought to think before she posts.

No place in government

This is the lesson we hope that Celine Pialago, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), has come to realize, after she drew deserved criticism for callous remarks she posted on her Facebook page about detained activist Reina Mae Nasino, who lost her 3-month-old daughter, River, after prison authorities separated the sickly infant from her mother.

The post, which has since been deleted, was written in Filipino, and translates roughly to this:

“Happy Sunday everyone! This has nothing to do with traffic, but the way I see it, I need to use my voice as a Filipino on this issue.

“Not all mothers who are in jail can go to their child’s funeral. So to all the sympathizers of Reina Mae Nasino, learn why she has been detained and understand who she is in society.

“You’re turning her grief into an afternoon drama series. Stop it!”

The remarks seemed particularly callous, given that the Manila court that originally granted her a three-day furlough for the wake and burial had cut it down to just six hours spread over two days, on the basis of a claim by the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory that it had inadequate manpower to guard Nasino, who was apparently watched by dozens of law enforcement personnel during her furlough.

Pialago said it must have been one of the 70—she later on said seven, after she was flooded with questions about her army of social media operators—administrators of her social media account who took the post down, but that she was standing by what she said about how Nasino deserved tight security.

She did “clarify” that she was attacking the people who were riding and capitalizing on the issue to manipulate others, not the grieving mother.

This distinction, however, does absolutely nothing to redeem the former beauty queen.

Nasino, who was arrested in November 2019 during a crackdown on leftist groups, bid goodbye to her daughter River while in handcuffs and surrounded by police on Friday, Oct. 16. She is not a convict; under our laws, she should be treated as innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.

A month after Nasino gave birth on July 1, she was separated from her baby, despite widespread calls for the child to stay with her mother. Three-month-old River later died of acute respiratory distress syndrome on Oct. 9.

The prisoners rights group Kapatid said Pialago’s statements showed that “sensitivity cannot be taught nor proper manners and right conduct if one is empty-headed.”

The Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns demanded that Pialago apologize for conduct unbecoming of a public official.

While Pialago and her patrons are likely to point out that these are all leftist groups coming to the aid of one of their own, we suggest that one does not need to be an ideologue either way to show some common, human decency. You can oppose the communists and be a decent human being; the two are not mutually exclusive.

From a public official, the least we can expect is a show of empathy for a mother who has suffered the loss of a child—regardless of her political views. Absent the ability to show this, Pialago would best keep her “voice” to herself—until she is out of government.

Topics: Celine Pialago , Metropolitan Manila Development Authority , Reina Mae Nasino
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