CAN a government official make outrageous statements in social media then avoid accountability because the Facebook or Twitter account is personal?
This seems to be what Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo believes, given her remarks about the misadventures of her assistant secretary, Lorraine Badoy, who suggested on her Facebook page, among other things, that European officials who had a problem with President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody anti-illegal drug war stick to online child pornography because that is what they do best.
The European Union’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Franz Jessen, promptly registered his objections to Badoy’s statement.
“The issue of child pornography is extremely serious and a grave crime. It should be addressed in a serious and responsibly manner,” he said.
Badoy’s statement did nothing to improve relations between the Philippines and the EU, which had already been strained by President Duterte’s comment that he would be happy to hang European officials who objected to his plan to reinstate the death penalty.
But this did not matter to Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, who defended Badoy, saying that the issue “has been twisted out of context and sensationalized.”
“To what purpose, we do not know; but what is evident is that this is being blown out of proportion,” she said.
“Asec. Badoy loves children and cares about their welfare, so to even imply that she trivializes the issue is unfair and misleading,” Taguiwalo said. “She is an outspoken critic of social injustice, and we have no doubt as to her stand against child pornography.”
Taguiwalo also said it was “unfair” to question Badoy’s personal character “because of one sarcastic sentence she wrote in her own social networking page.”
Taguiwalo conceded that as government officials, they all should be more circumspect and careful about what they post on social media.
“We always run the risk of being—deliberately or not, maliciously or not— misinterpreted. All of us in the DSWD executive committee and even our staff will take lessons from this incident,” she said.
“In the meantime, it is business as usual for all of us in our work to serve the poor and those in need, and this includes helping children who are victims of child abuse, sexual violence, and pornography.”
With all due respect to the good secretary, it isn’t business as usual when a government official of a department charged with the welfare of minors makes sarcastic or facetious remarks in public about child pornography.
Nor is it evident to us that the issue been blown out of proportion or twisted out of context.
Assistant Secretary Badoy’s love of children is not the issue here; her complete lack of tact and discipline are, given her position in the government. In this age of social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a host of other networks comprise a rapid public address system, and government officials cannot hide behind the notion that it is all right to issue irresponsible statements simply because the accounts they use are personal, not institutional.
If Secretary Taguiwalo wishes to speak to us of fairness and malice, she should consider the fairness that her subordinate exhibited when she branded EU officials as being good in child pornography—and tell us if that was not malicious.
At the risk of being misinterpreted, we suggest Taguiwalo stop wasting time defending erring subordinates and get the ubiquitous homeless underage beggars off Metro Manila’s dangerous streets. Now that would be a good way to look after children’s welfare.