Incoming Presidential Spokesperson Roque warns: Palace can get ‘explosive’

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With a tough-talking president soon having a fiery litigator as his mouthpiece, things may get “explosive” in Malacañang, incoming Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque himself warned.

Roque, a human rights lawyer known for his tirades and outspoken opinion, is set to replace Ernesto Abella as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson on  November 6.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, October 30, Roque said he has warned the president about his personality.

“I think it’s because I’m even more controversial than him (Duterte) so together we could be explosive. I warned the president about that and he says fine,” said Roque, who’s also the Kabayan Party-list representative.

Last week, Duterte confirmed that Roque will succeed as his new spokesperson.

The president remarked that the solon fits in his new role since both of them “speak in a playful language.” He added that Roque will also be given a rank of “secretary.”

Duterte, however, failed to cite specific reasons for dismissing Abella, who has a rank of undersecretary and is a pastor by profession. He insisted that changing his spokesperson was his “personal decision.”

“That is my personal decision. I am not about to explain why I did it,” a tight-lipped Duterte said.

Roque served as the lawyer of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre in 2009, wherein 58 people killed—32 of which were journalists. He also served as the legal counsel of the family of transgender Jennifer Laude, who was killed by American Joseph Scott Pemberton in Olongapo in 2014.

Likewise, Roque represented the Malaya Lolas—who were victims of systematic rape and abuse by the Japanese Imperial Army—as well as the family of murdered Palawan-based environmentalist and media practitioner Gerry Ortega.

Same human rights conviction

Even with his new post as Duterte’s spokesperson, Roque said he would continue to advocate human rights.

Duterte, who assumed presidency last year, has been criticized by local and international organizations over the alleged human rights abuses in his anti-illegal drugs campaign. He was also accused of endorsing the killings of drug suspects.

For his part, Roque made clear that his “mandate as an advocate of human rights is to protect and promote human rights.”

“You cannot change overnight. You cannot be a completely different person. I am the same person. My convictions remain the same. I accepted the post thinking this could be the best avenue for me to influence this administration on matters involving human rights,” the solon said.

“As long as I have questions to answer from the media on human rights, I would continue asking them (security forces) questions as well,” he added.

Despite this, Roque warned critics that he will not tolerate any disrespect to the president.

“If, in the past, you were able to throw stones without anyone hitting back, be warned that if you throw stones, I won’t just throw stones but hollow blocks,” he said. “Just wait for the adobe and hollow blocks that I will throw at you.”

Concerning his relationship with the press, Roque expressed optimism as he noted that he has not had a negative history with members of the media.

Noting that he “believed in the free marketplace of ideas,” he remarked that the “free market of ideas” must be allowed to “flourish.”

He went on to say, “I have been working with the media for the past 15 years at the very least. I’ve represented media in libel cases. I’ve represented heirs of media victims when they were killed. I look forward to this kind of partnership.”





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