When Harry met Rody


HARRY Roque’s crit­ics al­lege he has aban­doned his party prin­ci­ples and be­lief in hu­man rights when he ac­cepted the new job as pres­i­den­tial spokesman.

Party-list con­gress­man Roque is the House deputy mi­nor­ity leader. Other politi­cians read­ily de­fected to Pres­i­dent Duterte’s rul­ing party, he can switch po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Not a big thing nowa­days, is it?

His ad­vo­cacy in hu­man rights is some­thing else. Tougher to switch sides here: from de­fender of vic­tims to de­fender of al­leged vic­tim­iz­ers. Still, Roque in­sists he can speak for Pres­i­dent Duterte on con­tro­ver­sial meth­ods in com­bat­ing il­le­gal drugs with­out dump­ing his avowed pre­cepts on in­di­vid­ual lib­er­ties.

Not a frat brod

One can un­der­stand how Roque caught the eye of Duterte. The con­gress­man, though with the mi­nor­ity, has been de­fend­ing the pres­i­dent on a num­ber of con­tro­ver­sial is­sues. Un­like other ap­pointees in the Cabi­net, Roque is a Harry-come­lately. He’s not one of Duterte’s fra­ter­nity brothers or col­lege mates.

And he came as a re­place­ment or sub­sti­tute, ap­par­ently be­cause his pre­de­ces­sor hasn’t sat­is­fied Duterte’s de­mands. The pres­i­dent said he and Roque are the same as they’re both “play­ful.” Not spe­cific enough. Did he mean play­ful-tease or play­ful-tough? Those hol­low blocks

By Roque’s ini­tial salvo even be­fore his of­fi­cial as­sump­tion on Nov. 6, in which he threat­ened crit­ics who throw stones at his boss to get a shower of not just stones but “hol­low blocks,” he’s not be­ing play­ful at all, he’s be­ing tough, pe­riod.

It would di­rectly clash with the style of out­go­ing spokesman Ernesto Abella, a pas­tor whose “com­po­sure” and “mod­er­a­tion” in speak­ing for Duterte has earned praise even from crit­ics. Roque wouldn’t be ex­plain­ing or even walk­ing back on the pres­i­dent’s oc­ca­sional rant. No dam­age con­trol, just re­turn fire, bul­let for bul­let, hol­low block for stone.

How did Harry and Rody meet? Broad­caster’s case

A Rap­pler story some­time ago said Roque was the lawyer of Davao City ra­dio com­men­ta­tor Alexan­der Ado­nis who was charged with li­bel by a politi­cian whom tabl oid me­dia in Manila tagged the “Burlesk King.”

The politi­cian, caught in a love tryst with a mar­ried woman, was al­legedly forced by the hus­band to run naked across the ho­tel lobby. Ado­nis who read the news re­port in a Davao ra­dio sta­tion was con­victed in 2007 while his co-ac­cused, the sta­tion man­ager, was ac­quit­ted. Ado­nis lost by de­fault; for lack of money, he skipped the trial and was sen­tenced to more than four years in jail. He was re­leased on pa­role af­ter two years in the Davao Pe­nal Colony.

Same cause then

Harry and Rody came to know each other be­cause of the Ado­nis case: Roque de­fended the broad­caster and Duterte cast his lot with them, as the politi­cian-com­plainant was then a po­lit­i­cal ri­val.

They shared the same cause then. They may not share the same causes this time: on hu­man rights and is­sues such as the death penalty and low­er­ing the age of crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity, they clash. One’s gotta give and it’s highly un­likely it’s the pres­i­dent who will.

Roque’s the hi red help and Duterte’s the boss. You can see where the wind blows. We may now be see­ing some of it in Harry’s threat to throw hol­low blocks to an­swer stones thrown at his chief client.

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