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Duterte’s order to Roque: ‘Do what is right, tell the truth’

By Ted Tuvera, Angie
M. Rosales and Gerry Baldo

“Do what is right and tell the truth.”
Incoming presidential spokesman Harry Roque, at his first Malacañang press briefing yesterday, revealed that President Rodrigo Duterte reminded him to disseminate factual information to the public.
“(Mr. Duterte told me) only two things: Stick for what is right for the country and never lie. So do what is right and tell the truth. Two orders,” he stressed.
According to Roque, he also trusts and believes the President will not say anything without factual basis.
“I stand by whatever my President says,” he said.
Roque also assured Mr. Duterte that as the new spokesman, he would deliver his message to the Filipino people.
The incoming presidential spokesman added he is also open to “opposing and conflicting” stance against Mr. Duterte’s policies.
“But for the purposes of the mainstream media, I can assure you that my track record speaks for itself. I am for free exchange of ideas. And I welcome opposing and conflicting views as healthy and important in a democracy,” he stressed.
The new presidential spokesman also advised government’s critics to stop reacting as if Mr. Duterte’s manner of talking is not new.

“I think people should get used to the President by now and they must be used to the President after almost a year and a half,” he said.
Roque, who is also known as a human rights advocate, said he would want to advise Mr. Duterte to harmonize the application of criminal law on human rights.
Mr. Duterte has a negative human rights reputation before the international community amid his administration’s intensified war on illegal drugs.
“It’s a matter really of making the President realize that Criminal Law is actually a manner of enforcing human rights,” Roque said.
“When you prosecute a case of murder, you do so because a murderer violated the right to life. That kind of an advice, I think would be appropriate, that there is no incompatibility between his public policies, his directives and human rights itself,” he added.
Another post
Roque also hinted at the possibility of holding another position in the Duterte government.
In separate television interview, he said he asked the Chief Executive a “concurrent designation” which he said he won’t reveal yet.
“It will be an advisory post and I think it will add to my credibility as a spokesman if I can go beyond just speaking for the President,” Roque added.
According to him, he will wait for his official appointment to the other post he will hold.
“I think I would rather wait until the President issues my formal appointment papers,” the presidential spokesman said.
“It is just an advisory position that would not be incompatible with the Cabinet appointment,” he added.
Roque also stressed he is not yet resigning from his post as Kabayan partylist Representative as he has yet to receive his appointment papers.
The Palace official said he was advised by some colleagues in the lower chamber to wait for his appointment paper and seek clarification whether he would need to hurdle the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA).
“I was given the advice though by some of my colleagues like Cong. Rodolfo Albano (that) unless you’re certain that you’re not going through the CA, don’t resign until you’re sure that one, you will not go through the CA, and if you do that, the CA had already confirmed you,” Roque told ANC, citing the case of former Las Piñas Representative and now Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, who waited for his confirmation from the CA before relinquishing his post as a lawmaker.
“I can assume (the position as a spokesman) without resigning, and that works for me right now as Congress is still on recess anyway,” Roque said.
Despite being given a rank of a Cabinet, the incoming presidential spokesman will not go through confirmation proceedings, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III yesterday said.
“The presidential spokesman, in my opinion, need not be confirmed anymore by the CA. The presidential spokesman does not run a department like the other secretaries,” he explained to reporters in a text message.
“Presidential spokesman, like the presidential legal counsel and the executive secretary should be 100 percent left to the discretion of the President,” Pimentel added.
Mr. Duterte, in announcing last October 28 the Kabayan party-list representative’s appointment, said Roque will have rank of a Cabinet secretary.
Roque will replace Ernesto Abella who had a rank of undersecretary and his appointment will take effect on November 6.
While some of his colleagues have expressed their expectations on Roque, on how he will be dispensing his role as presidential mouthpiece, Pimentel said he does not share the same.
“I will let him do his job, I have no comment whatsoever,” Pimentel, president of PDP-Laban which is the party of Mr. Duterte, said.
Senators JV Ejercito and Sonny Angara expressed hope that Roque will be able to not just carry out his tasks but also provide assistance to the administration in the field of law.
“I think it strengthens the Duterte administration in terms of international law since Cong. Harry (Roque) is or was a professor of public international law at UP (University of the Philippines),” Angara said.
“It gives them a deeper bench in this regard and this is quite important going forward, with domestic policies becoming increasingly intertwined with international affairs,” he added.
In taking up the position, Roque said his mission as is to be the voice of clarity amid the ambiguity that surrounded Mr. Duterte’s words.
Roque himself noted that Palace officials have repeatedly clarified and reinterpreted some of the controversial the remarks made by the President especially those which appeared to support genocide or violations of fundamental human rights.
“Best of luck to Secretary Harry Roque. Judging from his first formal press conference, he did very well, spoke clearly, has knowledge on issues raised and showed firmness,” said Ejercito.
The congressman is currently the deputy minority leader in the lower chamber.
‘Vindictiveness’
Roque’s partymate, Ron Salo, however, slammed Roque for allegedly using his new post to remove him from Congress.
Salo, second nominee of Kabayan, said Roque is pursuing the complaint against him before the House committee on ethics despite the supposed absence of merit to warrant his expulsion as member of the 17th Congress.
“Mr. Roque should be reminded that he is a spokesman for the President and not of himself. He should be concerned with matters involving the presidency and the interest of the country, and not of his personal glorification,” Salo said.
“In assuming a Presidential Spokesperson post which is of great responsibility, he should understand that there is no room for vindictiveness in public service,” Salo explained.
Earlier this year, Roque filed six ethics complaint against Salo, the second nominee, for alleged multiple violations of the House of Representatives Code of Conduct.
“The expulsion case Mr. Roque filed against me in the House of Representatives is based on my alleged use of government resources in printing the disbarment case I filed against him in the Supreme Court. Any person would understand that the basis of his complaint is as shallow as a kiddie pool, yet only for personal media mileage, he would maximize its utility,” Salo stressed.
On August 1, 2017, Roque said the House committee on ethics chaired by AGRI party-list Rep. Delphine Lee found all of his complaints sufficient in form and substance.
Roque’s complaints stemmed from Salo’s alleged use of government resources to malign him, disclosure of his disbarment case against Roque, and his supposed illegitimate attempt to grab the former’s seat in Congress by unlawfully removing Roque from the Kabayan organization.
He has also filed indirect contempt charges against Salo and the latter’s chief of staff for violating the confidentiality clause of the Rules of Court in disbarment proceedings against lawyers.
Roque accused Salo of “gross and shameless ignorance and blatant competence” and alleged that the latter misused government property, personnel, and resources to commit technical malversation.
Last January 16, Roque said Salo used his congressional office, personnel, equipment, time and other government resources to prepare, draft, and disseminate a press release entitled “Harry Roque Slapped with Disbarment Case for Spreading Lies and Malicious Accusations vs. Fellow Representative.”

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