MANILA - Civil Service Commissioner Atty. Aileen Lizada on Monday reminded government officials and employees to be mindful of their position and always take the higher ground after the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) spokesperson issued controversial remarks against a jailed activist who recently lost her baby.
"A public official or employee should avoid any appearance of impropriety affecting the integrity of her office. When people look at you, they look at you as the spokesperson of a certain agency," Lizada told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, noting that the controversial comment of MMDA's Assistant Secretary Celine Pialago was on her Facebook account that carried her title as "MMDA Spokesperson".
In her social media post published Sunday, Pialago said, "Hindi lahat ng inang nakakulong ay nakakapunta sa libing ng kanyang anak. Kaya yung mga sumisimpatya kay Reina Mae Nasino, pag aralan niyo mabuti ang dahilan bakit siya nakulong at kilalain niyong mabuti kung sino siya sa lipunan."
She added, "Masyado ninyong ginagawang pang drama serye sa hapon ang paghihinagpis niya. Tigilan niyo!"
Nasino, 23, who was arrested in November last year for alleged illegal possession of firearms, attended the burial of her 3-month-old daughter last Friday under tight security. Prison officials, whose deployment was described as an overkill, refused to uncuff her during the funeral rites.
Nasino gave birth in July while in jail. The baby was then sent to Nasino's mother, but died on Oct. 9 after getting sick.
On Monday, Pialago said the "drama serye" in her comment pertained to the people who were "capitalizing" on Nasino's situation.
For Lizada, public officials should be very careful in their comments as they would always be associated with their respective agencies.
"They cannot say na hiwalay ho ito, that I'm taking my hat off. So ingat lang ho tayo, especially when you touch on sensitive matters such as death. The loss of someone, you are already grieving enough," she said.
(You cannot say that this is a separate issue, that I'm taking my hat off. So, we should be careful, especially when you touch on sensitive matters such as death. The loss of someone, you are already grieving enough.)
"Importante ho na kami sa gobyerno, ingat ho dapat tayo sa sinasabi natin because we reflect our agency as well," Lizada added.
(It is important that we, as government officials, should always be careful with what we say because we reflect our agency as well.)
And public servants remain as such even beyond their working hours, said Lizada.
"We remain public officials, not only from 8 or 9 to 5. It is a 24-hour duty on our end. So whatever we say, whatever we do, reflects of who we are and our agency as well," she explained.
"We take the higher ground here. We are in a better position to see the whole thing and to understand because there are emotions involved," she added.
"When you are the spokesperson of a certain agency, you espouse, you say what the agency feels and believes in. But what you are using now, you are going on a personal note. But, hindi natin mase-separate yung official function natin sa sinasabi (But we cannot separate our official function from what we say personally)."
"And there is nothing to correct, kung wala ho tayong sinsabi (if we didn't say anything), if we were more sensitive, and saying like, we extend our condolences to the mother for the loss of the child and let us allow the courts to proceed."
Lizada advised public officials to always first ask the purpose of their personal statements before making them public.
"Let us not use our position to voice out things na, what is the purpose of saying it. I always ask, what is ... saying it? Makakaganda ba? Makakabuti ba? (Will it be beneficial to the agency?) So importante ho iyon (that is important). Let us always pride ourselves with integrity," she added.
Nasino bid her daughter, River, goodbye on Friday at the Manila North Cemetery.
Photos of Nasino wearing a full PPE and handcuffs during her baby River's burial went viral, with many criticizing the authorities for not allowing her to mourn properly.
Nasino, who is facing illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges, gave birth to her daughter River on July 1 at Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, 8 months after her arrest at the office of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Tondo, Manila in November 2019.