MMDA spokesperson not letting Facebook joke page pass, files cyberlibel suit
MANILA, Philippines (Update 4:35 p.m.) — Metropolitan Manila Development Authority spokesperson Celine Pialago did not let a meme about her pass as she filed a cyberlibel complaint against administrators of Facebook page “Pinoy Laugh Page” on Wednesday.
Pialago filed a two-page complaint–affidavit before the Philippine National Police accusing the administrator of “Pinoy Laugh Page” of posting a malicious post “for the purpose of discrediting my reputation and credibility as MMDA spokesperson.”
The page was created in 2011, and the unnamed administrator said it is a “compilation of jokes and funny pics that made me laugh from different sources.”
“The said malicious post contains a picture of myself with a statement allegedly declared by me, to wit: ‘MMDA sa commuters: Kung nahihirapan sumakay, ‘wag na lang pumasok,’” her complaint-affidavit read.
Pialago said that she never uttered the words attributed to her.
“Due to the defamatory and false imputations against me, I became the subject of public ridicule, hatred and social media bashing,” she added.
Pialago did not include a screenshot of the supposed post nor its URL.
The cited post was also found on the Twitter page of Barurot News, an account that posts satirical headlines based on current events.
MMDA sa Commuters: Kung Nahihirapan Sumakay, ’Wag Na Lang Pumasok pic.twitter.com/v3bzU6lWCU
— Barurot News (@BarurotNews) October 7, 2019
According to reports, Pialago is also suing the administrators of Barurot News.
Pialago was actually the subject of social media posts when users slammed her for saying that government will “not let” organizers of a transport strike—held to protest a public utility vehicle ‘modernization’ program that some transport groups say would put them out of business—win.
Local government units were forced to suspend classes and government agencies deployed buses in anticipation of the strike.
She earned further criticism when she dared Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes to “try harder” by organizing longer transport strikes.
“Tigilan mo ko Renato Reyes. Tigilan mo kaka strike mo para pahirapan ang mga pasahero dahil hindi ka magtatagumpay,” she said on her Facebook page.
(Stop it, Renato Reyes. Stop holding these strikes to inconvenience passengers because you will not succeed.)
She also told Reyes, who is not a PUV driver or operator: “Kung kaya mong mag-transport strike ng isang taon baka sakali magtagumpay ka. One day? Try harder.”
(If you can hold a transport strike for a year, maybe you will succeed. One day? Try harder.)
Memes and the Duterte government
Pialago is not the first official of the Duterte government that cried foul over a meme.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo last May called out Malacañang Events and Catering Services for posting an edited photo of him during a media briefing where he alleged there is wide conspiracy to discredit the Duterte administration.
The photo posted by the satire page was edited to make it seem that Panelo was endorsing candidates from Otso Diretso, former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, and labor leader Leody de Guzman “for an independent Senate.”
While acknowledging the post is a “political meme,” Panelo said it “amounts to a defamatory imputation” and is “political mudslinging.” — Kristine Joy Patag
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article identified the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority spokesperson as Celina Pialogo. The MMDA spokesperson who filed the cyberlibel complaint is Celine Pialago. This has been corrected.)