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'Why me?': Roque laments coverage of him at mass gathering
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque was in attendance when huge crowds gathered in Madridejos, Bantayan Island in Cebu to greet participants of the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo Santa Fe/Madridejos/Bantayan Escapade on Friday.
The Freeman/ Aldo Banaynal

'Why me?': Roque laments coverage of him at mass gathering

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - December 1, 2020 - 4:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Tuesday took issue with the media's reporting on his apparent violation of community quarantine rules in Cebu over the weekend.

This comes after pictures of him addressing a large crowd during a tourism event in Bantayan Island on Friday were widely criticized by social media users. Roque himself has reminded the public that mass gatherings are prohibited under community quarantine protocols.

During a virtual briefing on Tuesday, the COVID-19 task force spokesman took the opportunity to deflect blame for the incident to everyone from the local government, the attendees and even the media.

"I reminded the crowd, I scolded them because I said 'You need to wait for the vaccine because that is what the president wants'," Roque said in Filipino, adding that he instucted local officials to end the event and that it did in "less than an hour." In a previous statement issued Sunday, Roque claimed he had no control over the event as a guest.

He also took a swipe at Vice President Leni Robredo, presenting pictures of her shaking hands with Filipinos affected by the recent onslaught of typhoons during relief operations and questioned why the "mainstream" media chose not to cover such incidents.

"What hurts my feelings is [they are] taking a stab at me....Why is it always me being attacked by Inquirer or ABS-CBN? How come when it wa VP Leni shaking hands, wasn't that a violation? My request to the media is to be fair," he said in Filipino on Tuesday.

Later in the afternoon, Robredo's spokesman Barry Gutierrez fired back at Roque for dragging the vice president into the issue.

"I look forward to the day when officials in this administration can be accountable, accept responsibility and commit to doing better, instead of bashing the VP every time the Filipino public call out shortcomings," he said.

"But I'm not holding my breath. Nagpa mañanita ka sa beach tapos si VP pa rin itututo mo? (You held a mañanita at the beach but you still point to the VP?) Wow," Gutierrez further chided, referencing another widely publicized violation of comunity quarantine rules by a high-ranking government official.

Roque struggles to abide by quarantine rules

Roque recently drew flak for being pictured at a karaoke celebration in Baguio City amid the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses. He brushed off criticism of his actions, explaining that he was trying to unwind or relax. Early in November, the Department of Health cautioned against karaoke, explaining that singing may increase the spead of COVID-19.

In the earlier months of the pandemic-induced community quarantine, which has now stretched on for 261 days, Roque earned the public's ire for visiting a dolphin park even as he was reminding Filipinos to stay home and blaming their stubborness for the continued spread of COVID-19.

READ: Roque, who scolds Filipinos for being 'pasaway', justifies 'side trip' to dolphin park

Pictures of Roque swimming with dolphins and conversing with several people at the marine park were posted on Ocean Adventures's Facebook page in July. The post was taken down but they made the rounds on social media and were picked up by news outlets nonetheless.

In one of the pictures in the now-deleted post, Roque is seen conversing with two other people — all three of them were not wearing masks. A fourth bystander, meanwhile, was pictured with a mask on.

'Fair' treatment for quarantine violators?

Although Roque has requested fairness from the media, the government has cracked down harshly on quarantine violators in past months even as high ranking officials go unpunished for flouting the same protocols.

READ: 'By the book': A look at quarantine incidents and police operational procedures | 

Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas, at the height of the enhanced community quarantine, was pictured celebrating his birthday in what is now known as the mañanita controversy. Since then, he has been promoted to chief of the Philippine National Police.

President Rodrigo Duterte recently said that he would clear Sinas of the two complaints filed against him over the incident. The president may only pardon after a formal conviction, however, and may not clear anyone of criminal charges before these are even established.

Roque has also faced no repurcussions for the three quarantine violations listed above.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año disclosed in an interview aired over radio dzBB on Sunday that "fact finding" initiatives would be launched to probe the provincial government’s island group tour and what caused the crowds to gather. Roque on Tuesday said he welcomed such efforts. 

Amid the world's longest lockdown, more than 430,000 Filipinos have contracted novel coronavirus and close to 8,500 have died. 

— with reports from Franco Luna and Xave Gregorio 

Related video:

COMMUNITY QUARANTINE COVID-19 HARRY ROQUE NOVEL COROANVIRUS
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