"It's nothing, he was just joking.”
The Palace on Thursday downplayed anew as a mere joke the remark of President Rodrigo Duterte that he would shoot senatorial candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II “for free.”
In his speech during the campaign sortie of the ruling PDP-Laban in Isabela province, the President took a swipe at Roxas, calling the former Interior secretary as disloyal and an unprincipled person.
“Just because you are a namesake of Roxas doesn’t mean you’re good. This person has no loyalty. In the time of Arroyo, he was there. In the time of Aquino, he was there. He’s nothing. Pretends to be somebody. He’s a person without principles,” the President said in his speech.
Roxas, a grandson of former President Manuel Roxas, was first appointed to lead the Department of Trade and Industry in 2000 by then President Joseph Estrada.
In January 2001, then President Arroyo reappointed him to the same position after the ouster of Estrada during the so-called 2nd Edsa Revolution.
He then served as chief of the Department of Transportation and Communications, now referred to as the Department of Transportation, from July 2011 to October 2012 under the Arroyo administration.
After Arroyo, President Benigno Aquino III then appointed him as chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, replacing the late Jesse Robredo who died in a plane crash.
He headed the DILG from September 2012 to September 2015.
As he held various key positions in the government, Duterte then lambasted Roxas for not doing anything productive in his many stints as government official.
“You are nothing to me. I can even shoot you for free,” the President said.
“Mar Roxas, I kill people for money, but since you are nothing, I will shoot you for free,” he added.
Sought for a comment, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo then backed the President’s harsh rhetoric, saying the President, once again, only intended to make the audience laugh.
“It’s nothing, he was just joking… It’s usual in the campaign, it’s freedom of expression. It’s like that during the elections,” Panelo said in a chance interview with reporters.
Asked if the President was threatening Roxas with his remark, the Palace official said: “It’s not a threat.”
“It’s a joke, it’s his style. First of all, he will not seriously do it. Second, the order to shoot and kill isn’t free, there has to be a payment. So, everything lacks logic. It’s just a joke,” he added.
Just last week, the President criticized Roxas’ qualification in running for the May 2019 elections, saying the senatorial aspirant should just become a traffic aide. He also slammed the opposition’s ticket “Otso Diretso.”