Harry Roque’s protest: ‘I did not lie’

Sun.Star Baguio - - Opinion - Looks like a liar A rea­son to leave If he slugs it out

THE for­mer ac­tivist lawyer and party-list con­gress­man who has been of­fi­cially speak­ing for Pres­i­dent Duterte since Novem­ber last year was ex­pected to de­cide to­day (Mon­day, Oct. 8) on whether (1) he re­signs maybe to run for the Se­nate or (2) he stays in gov­ern­ment but moves from the job of spokesman to some­thing else.

Be­fore the week­end, Harry Roque was at some cross­roads. He most prob­a­bly prefers the Se­nate race but the Pres­i­dent him­self pub­licly told him not to run. Re­call that he signed up be­cause the ti­tle would mount him on the na­tional stage, which he thought would be his ticket to the ex­clu­sive se­na­tors’ club.

That looks like it won’t be hap­pen­ing. In­stead, he is given the op­tion to head the of­fice of press sec­re­tary, which still does not ex­ist and if cre­ated out of the Pres­i­den­tial Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Op­er­a­tions Of­fice, might dis­lodge its present PCOO chief, Martin An­da­nar. Roque’s stay­ing seems doomed to cre­ate an up­heaval in the Pres­i­dent’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion ap­pa­ra­tus.

But that’s not the point of Roque’s near com­bus­tion last Thurs­day (Oct. 4) when the Pres­i­dent pub­licly made him look like a liar by an­nounc­ing that he un­der­went an en­doscopy at the Car­di­nal San­tos hos­pi­tal in San Juan City to check fur­ther “growth” in his di­ges­tive tract. The day be­fore, Roque told re­porters Duterte “just took his day off” af­ter can­celling a Cab­i­net meet­ing. “I as­sume that I have no in­for­ma­tion that he went to the hos­pi­tal.”

Was that not say­ing he did not know if the Pres­i­dent was hos­pi­tal­ized? It was but it didn’t sound clear enough to jour­nal­ists who fo­cused on the de­nial, not on ab­sence of knowl­edge, by the spokesman.

The head­lines of course were about Roque’s de­nial, fol­lowed the next day by Duterte’s ad­mis­sion.

Roque did not use the tack of White House press sec­re­tary Sara Huck­abee-San­ders who would’ve said, “I don’t know the an­swer to that, will get back to you.” A no-com­ment, not de­nial. Or po­lice re­gional chief Gen. De­bold Si­nas who when asked, “Are jour­nal­ists safe from ar­rest?” promptly shot back, “Yes ... for now.” Not iron-clad prom­ise, an as­sur­ance just for the mo­ment.

Had Roque known about the Car­di­nal San­tos hos­pi­tal “visit” and even the pre­vi­ous find­ing of the “sus­pected can­cer” in an ap­par­ently ear­lier checkup (Wed­nes­day’s di­ag­nos­tic test was a fol­low-up), he could’ve sought guid­ance on how the spokesman should han­dle it. Maybe he would’ve not even com­mented un­til he’d know more.

Which raises the spec­u­la­tion that Duterte must have in­tended to “burn” Roque and give him a rea­son to quit or ac­cept an­other job in the gov­ern­ment.

Roque couldn’t say he wasn’t warned about serv­ing as pres­i­den­tial spokesman. Friends and crit­ics alike called out the po­ten­tial con­flict of in­ter­est: Roque’s per­sonal be­liefs, as ex­pressed in what he said and did be­fore he came aboard the Duterte ship of state, clashed with the Pres­i­dent’s views and style.

Roque is now much bet­ter known than be­fore he be­came spokesman but that, he must re­al­ize more sharply, may not per­suade enough num­ber of vot­ers to send him to the Se­nate.

He might stay on, as press sec­re­tary or some other of­fi­cial n in the gov­ern­ment. There will be enough seats to be va­cated by Cab­i­net mem­bers who’ll run for elec­tive of­fice.

Or he’ll slug it out at the cam­paign trail and con­tinue to de­fend his work with the Pres­i­dent, which will be very much an is­sue if he runs.

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