‘Let MMDA spokesperson express her views,’ says Roque, as controversy surrounds burial of detained activist’s daughter

Published October 19, 2020, 3:19 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque asked the public to cut Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) spokesperson Celine Pialago some slack after she voiced out her unpopular opinion about activist Reina Nasino and daughter baby River.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Roque made the statement after Pialago was heavily criticized by netizens for lacking empathy for a grieving mother like Nasino whose three-month old daughter died in a hospital while she was under detention.

Pialago wrote on her Facebook page, which she claimed — and later on denied — has 70 administrators, that those who sympathize with Nasino should get to know the detained activist well first.

“Kilalanin ‘nyong mabuti kung sino siya sa lipunan. Masyado ninyong ginagawang pang-drama serye sa hapon ang paghihinagpis niya. Tigilan ‘nyo (Get to know her and role in society. You are making too much drama about her grief. Stop it!),” she said.

In his Monday presser, Roque said Pialago should be allowed to have her own voice on certain matters even though it is outside her mandate as the spokesperson for the MMDA.

“Tingin ko po personal na opinion niya ‘yan, hindi naman po kasi related sa MMDA ang issue na ‘yan (I think it’s her personal opinion because it’s not related to the MMDA),” he said.

‘Hayaan po natin na magkaroon ng personal na opinion si Spokesperson Pialago (Let’s let Spokesperson Pialago have her own opinion),” he added.

Pialago, a former journalist, had apologized for using the words “drama” in her post and for attacking Nasino as a mother but not before angry netizens called her out and revived her blunder when she joined a beauty pageant, among others.

Pialago joined the Miss Philippines Earth pageant in 2014 wherein she went viral for saying in an interview that her fellow candidate “passed away” when the latter just passed out.

Duterte does not micromanage

Meanwhile, despite groups calling it an “overkill”, Roque said President Duterte respects the decision of the authorities to shower Baby River’s funeral with security forces.

“The President does not micromanage and in matters of securing an accused facing a non-bailable offense, the President can never substitute his judgment for that of the commander on the ground,” he said.

“We respect po whatever the decision of the commander may have been on the ground. If he felt that [a] such security arrangement was necessary, so be it. Pero mahirap po na manghimasok sa ganyang mga factual determination na wala naman po siya sa lugar na ‘yon (But it’s difficult for the President to intervene in that kind of factual determination when he’s not there personally),” he said.

Nasino, who was arrested in November 2019, said goodbye to her daughter River while in handcuffs and surrounded by police on October 16.

Baby River’s funeral procession was supposed to pass by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals but the car carrying her body changed course and sped off to the Manila North Cemetery.

Nasino gave birth on July 1 but they were separated despite calls to let the child stay with her mother. River later died of acute respiratory distress syndrome on October 9.

The detained activist was originally granted a continuous three-day furlough for the wake and burial, but a Manila court cut it to three hours each for two days after the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory claimed there was inadequate manpower to guard the activist. However, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology spokesman Xavier Solda said there were 43 personnel from different jail units deployed for the burial.