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'Uncalled for': Roque under fire over outburst on doctors in IATF meeting

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'Uncalled for': Roque under fire over outburst on doctors in IATF meeting
Screengrab shows presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a June 2020 briefing
PTV

MANILA, Philippines — Groups on Friday condemned Palace spokesman Harry Roque after a leaked video showed him berating a doctor who pleaded to retain Metro Manila under hard lockdown, saying his remarks were uncalled for and were "anti-health workers."

Parts of a September 7 virtual meeting of the pandemic task force were first reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. In it, Roque was seen throwing a fit said to be directed to Dr. Maricar Limpin of the Philippine College of Physicians. 

It came after the PCP president, at one point emotional, appealed against downgrading the capital region to general community quarantine amid continued rising COVID-19 cases that was pushed back to September 15. 

"Let me point out to everyone," Roque said while pointing his finger, "this group, they have never said anything good about the government's response."

Health workers' groups have since called out Roque for his outburst and demanded that he apologize.  

"His behavior is uncalled for," said Dr. Leni Jara of Shape Up in a briefing in Filipino. "Medical professionals are only giving advice and that's what he tells them? Does he lack sleep?"

For Robert Mendoza of the Alliance of Health Workers, the Palace spokesman's action reflected his boss, President Rodrigo Duterte. 

"Roque has already had many statements that are anti-health workers," he said in Filipino. "For us in AHW, Secretary Roque should already resign."

In the said IATF meeting, Limpin warned that a GCQ in Metro Manila at this time could lead to daily infections going up even further. 

Just on Thursday, the country saw its new record-high cases at 22,820. Authorites also reported more than 20,000 additional infections since the beginning of the week. 

"We won't be able to handle this," Limpin said in Filipino. "We're begging you, please, please, please."

Filipino Nurses United's Maristela Abenojar said Roque has been consistent in making remarks against medical workers, long hailed even by Duterte as heroes of the pandemic. 

"He is not a good example because if you're in that position, you should be listening and understanding where health workers' sentiments are coming from," Abenojar said in Filipino.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III was heard in the leaked video trying to mediate. To which, Roque replied: "No, they have to hear this!" — Christian Deiparine

HARRY ROQUE
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