Roque: Stint as Duterte spokesman doesn't erase past work as rights advocate

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Roque: Stint as Duterte spokesman doesn't erase past work as rights advocate
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque with fellow Cabinet secretaries on October 8, 2018.
Sec. Bong Go / Released, file

MANILA Philippines — Former presidential spokesman Harry Roque, now a candidate for senator, brushed aside criticisms of him for working for President Rordigo Duterte, who has been accused by various groups of endorsing human rights violations and curtailing press freedom.

Roque, who has drawn flak for defending Duterte's policies, said his efforts to promote and protect human rights cannot be undone by his stint in Malacañang.

"I don't care if they don't like me because I am secure and confident about what I did... They could hate me for what I did, I couldn't care less because my record speaks for itself," Roque told hosts of One News channel's "The Chiefs."

"I am not bothered. I don't have any insecurities. I don't have to be liked by people. I know what I did and I am confident I made a difference in the promotion and protection of human rights," he added.

Roque cited his role in securing a ruling from the UN Human Rights Committee that criminal libel is contrary to freedom of expression, the conviction of the Ampatuans over the Maguindanao massacre, and the passage of the Universal Healthcare Law.

"As far as my personal positions are concerned, I was very clear but people simply could not comprehend that as presidential spokesperson, you are supposed to speak only for the president and ignore your personal opinions," he added.

Asked to talk about his stint as presidential spokesman, Roque replied: "Well I guess, the highest point is everyone knows me. The lowest point is not everyone likes me. Those who dislike the president dislike me even more."

"As a presidential spokesperson, I really could not ventilate my personal opinions. But on issues, I have legislative records to speak for itself," he added.

The Duterte administration had nominated Roque to a seat in the International Law Commission but various institutions and civil society groups opposed his nomination, accusing him of defending human rights violations under the president.

The former Palace spokesman failed to win a seat in the body, securing only 87 votes, the lowest among nominees from the Asia Pacific region.

Last Monday, Duterte resigned as presidential spokesman to run for senator under the People's Reform Party (PRP), which was founded by former Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Santiago, who served three terms at the Senate, passed away in 2016.

Roque to support Go

On Wednesday, the PRP announced that it is adopting Duterte's daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as its candidate for vice president.

Carpio is the runningmate of former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., son of the late dictator Ferdnand Marcos and presidential bet of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas.

Roque said members of the PRP executive committee would meet to decide on the presidential aspirant to be supported by the party.

While he vowed to go by the decision of the committee, Roque admitted that it would be very hard for him not to support Sen. Bong Go, who is running for president under the Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan.

"I (would) be hypocrite If I were to say that I cannot support Sen. Bong Go because he was my colleague in the cabinet for a long time and one of the closest political allies that I have," Roque said.

"So I have to be honest, regardless of the decision of the party, PRP, I think it will be very difficult for me not to support Sen. Bong Go," he added. 

Marcos was Defensor-Santiago's running mate in the 2016 elections. Marcos lost the vice-presidential race to then-Rep. Leni Robredo of Camarines Sur. 




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