MMDA spokeswoman Celine Pialago not amused, files cyber-libel case against humor pages

MMDA’s spokeswoman Celine Pialago. <i>Photo: Pialago/FB</i>
MMDA’s spokeswoman Celine Pialago. Photo: Pialago/FB

Humor accounts are created for netizens to have a little fun, but Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) spokeswoman Celine Pialago isn’t laughing. The former beauty queen and current government flack filed cyber-libel charges yesterday against two social media accounts over jokes at her expense before the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group in Quezon City.

The Philippine Star reports that in her two-page complaint, Pialago alleged that Facebook account Pinoy Laugh Page created a meme “for the purpose of discrediting my reputation and credibility as MMDA spokesperson,” roping the Twitter account Barurot News into the suit as well after it also re-shared the meme.

The suit revolves around a fabricated quote attributed to Pialago: “MMDA to commuters: If you’re having a hard time getting a ride, don’t come to work.”

Though the original Pinoy Laugh Page post appears to have since been taken down, the same meme was shared by Barurot News on Monday.

“Due to the defamatory and false imputations against me, I became the subject of public ridicule, hatred and social media bashing,” Pialago said in her complaint.

She told ABS-CBN News in an interview yesterday that such memes would affect her performance as MMDA spokeswoman.

“The public will hold biases against me. Eventually they will believe in such lies… which are things I never said,” she remarked in English and Filipino.

According to its About section, Pinoy Laugh Page was created in 2011 and is the administrator’s “own compilation of jokes and funny pics” taken from different sources. Barurot News, in its header, calls itself “D’Original Fake News.”

Pialago was the object of ridicule last month when she castigated jeepney drivers’ associations for holding a national day of protest to express their anger at the government’s plan to phase out their iconic vehicles. In what were generally perceived as insensitive remarks, she told CNN Philippines that the government “will never allow them to be successful” in their plan to paralyze the country’s transport system.

She attracted more criticism when she lambasted prominent activist Renato Reyes in a Facebook post, in which she blamed him for organizing the drivers’ strike and mocked the effort.

“If you can have the transport strike for the entire year, you might succeed. One day? Try harder,” she wrote.

After Pialago filed the cyber-libel complaint, Barurot News tweeted a statement yesterday — also a fictional quote, from an equally fictional “Chief Justice Lyca Gairanod” — saying, “It’s clear from the profile picture, bio, and header that Barurot News is ‘D’Original Fake News.’ It’s clear that this is a satirical Twitter account that criticizes [government] officials and issues through tweets.”

“As the chief justice of the Supreme Court, I stand by my belief that satire is not libel…What Pialago wants to do is to violate [the right to] free speech.”

Meanwhile, the authorities are currently tracking down the administrators of the two accounts.

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