By Genalyn Kabiling
Newly appointed Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque is implementing changes in his government job, including holding a weekly press conference in Marawi City and tapping a millennial as his deputy spokesman.
Appearing in his first press conference in Malacañang, Roque announced plans to split his time between Manila and the provinces where he will hold press interviews.
Roque said he plans to visit Marawi City every Wednesday and meet other press corps in the provinces every Friday to bring the government closer to the people.
“It’s an innovation that I thought of because the rebuilding is soon to begin and I think the people should know exactly what’s happening on the ground,” he said. “I want to bring Malacañang to areas where, you know, attention should be devoted,” he added.
Roque said President Duterte has ordered him to “do what is right for the country” and “never lie” in his new government post.
“I’m a firm believer in freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” he said. “I am for free exchange of ideas and I welcome opposing and conflicting views, as healthy and important in the democracy,” he added.
And since he might not be available for regular interviews at the Palace, Roque said he plans to tap a former law student to become his deputy spokesman.
“Number one, I want a millennial. Number two, I want someone better looking — than me so that the women will fall in love with him and I want someone who speaks better than me,” he said.
President Duterte recently designated Roque as his new spokesman, replacing Ernesto Abella who served for more than a year in the administration. Duterte said he was confident Roque, a lawyer, is “very capable” to effectively bring his message across the public.
Roque said he would have an “independent office” or a separate entity from the Presidential Communications Operations Office. He promised he won’t fire any Palace staff member this December but he intends to bring in his own team to the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson.
Apart from being a Presidential spokesman with Cabinet rank, Roque said he might also be designated as concurrent adviser of the President. “It’s just an advisory position that would not be incompatible with the Cabinet appointment,” he said.
He also admitted that Abella was a tough act to follow, saying he cannot possibly be as calm as the former pastor.
But Roque said his approach as the President’s spokesman will be different since he is a lawyer.
“I always will speak from a legal perspective and believe it or not, one reason why we call lawyering as a fraternity of sorts is it’s inculcated in our mind that we have to perform and discharge our obligation pursuant to the Constitution and pursuant to law,” he said.
“So that’s a major difference. All pronouncements will be said within the proper legal context,” he added.
At the start of his first press conference, Roque asked the MPC to be “gentle” with their questions. The former law professor answered queries ranging from his new job to the government’s drug crackdown and the President’s relations with the European Union.
“It is a pleasure to enter this office of the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson and I look forward to a healthy, exciting, and fun working relationship with members of the Malacañang Press Corps,” he said.
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