MMDA passes on backing spokesperson's comments on Baby River burial
In this October 14, 2020 handout photo, personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Manila Police District, stand guard over jailed activist Reina Mae Nasino. Nasino was allowed three hours of freedom to attend the wake of her baby.
Kapatid, release

MMDA passes on backing spokesperson's comments on Baby River burial

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - October 19, 2020 - 11:44am

MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manila Development Authority spokesperson Celine Pialago's comments playing down heavy security at the wake and burial for a jailed activist's baby last week are her own, the MMDA said Monday.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Pialago said that supporters of Reina Mae Nasino were "making so much drama about her grief." The wake and burial saw the deployment of dozens of jail and police officers, which raised questions of a double standard for detained politicians granted temporary liberty by the courts. 

"This is not the stand of [the] MMDA. If she has a personal opinion, it's her right to say that. She is responsible enough to handle it," MMDA general manager Jojo Garcia said in a press briefing.

Garcia added that he had already spoken to Pialago about the incident after she received backlash for her comments. 

Pialago earlier clashed with transport groups who held a nationwide transport strike in September 2019 to protest the government's phaseout of traditional jeepneys.  

RELATED: Inconvenience not the goal of transport strike, MMDA spokesperson told

"They were not successful. The government will never allow them to be successful," she said then. 

"Kung kaya mong mag transport strike ng isang taon, baka sakali magtagumpay ka. One day? Try harder."

(If you could hold a transport strike for an entire year, maybe then you'd win.) 

In October of the same year, Pialago sued administrators of Twitter satire account Barurot News for posts that she said "discredit her reputation and credibility as MMDA spokesperson."

RELATED: It's protected speech, MMDA's Pialago told as satire account gets serious

Pialago: Death is no laughing matter

Speaking in an interview aired over dZMM TeleRadyo, Pialago doubled down on her comments, insisting she meant no disrespect towards Nasino's loss and was only referring to the groups who, she claimed, were capitalizing on the incident to make the government look oppressive. 

"What I am pointing out is those people who are taking advantage of [Reina's] situation, and not her grief as a mother," she said. 

"Death is no laughing matter. I also lost a grandmother and grandfather, I'm sure we all have," she also said. 

READ: Police cut short, speed up funeral procession for Baby River

"Kaya iyong mga sumisimpatiya kay Reina Mae Nasino, pag-aralan 'nyo mabuti ang dahilan bakit siya nakulong at kilalanin 'nyong mabuti kung sino siya sa lipunan," Pialago wrote Sunday in a post that she said was taken down by "one of her admins". She said she published the post again. 

(To those sympathizing with Reina Mae Nasino, know first why she's detained and understand who she is in society.

"Masyado ninyong ginagawang pang-drama serye sa hapon ang paghihinagpis niya. Tigilan 'nyo!"

(You're making so much drama about her grief. Stop it!)

One user responded to her in a comment, pointing out that Nasino's arrest was illegal and no laws had been violated. 

In response, Pialago wrote: "E di samahan mo sa kulungan wala palang nilabag e!"

(Then you should join her in jail if she did nothing wrong.) 

The burial of Baby River

Nasino was arrested in November 2019 during a police raid on progressive groups' headquarters. Her lawyers say that the charges for possession of firearms and explosives were made up. 

She was already in government cuctody when she found out she was bearing a child, and she went on to carry Baby River in her womb while in jail. 

She was given just six hours last week to attend her three-month-old firstborn’s wake and burial.

READ: Still in cuffs, jailed activist buries baby born while behind bars

From the funeral parlor to the burial site, Nasino remained handcuffed and surrounded by police and jail personnel. 

But Pialago on Monday said that groups were trying to take advantage of the situation to send a message. 

"They take advantage of the situation to deliver a different message, to manipulate other people, as if the government is very oppressive," she said in Filipino. 

"They do not know what they are saying. I challenge them to check the background of the person [Nasino] before blaming the government for the tight security during that time [baby River's funeral and burial]. I am speaking as a reservist," she added.

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