IF the job of a presidential spokesman is to take the heat for his boss, then Harry Roque is certainly doing a good job. Perhaps even too good a job.
In a recent exchange of words with detained Senator Leila de Lima earlier this month, the President’s official spokesman came out looking both petty and petulant.
“My advice to Leila de Lima, if you do not want to hear anything from me, stop saying things about me. Because remember, I am free, and I can reply. You’re in jail,” he told the ANC news channel.
“She can’t take it against me if I respond to anything that she says. I leave her alone as a matter of policy because she’s in jail. But stop attacking me. Stop expecting I will not hit back,” he added.
What the Palace spokesman neglected to say was that his word war with the senator began when he greeted her a “happy anniversary” on her first year of her incarceration on drug charges that she insists are bogus.
Was there a need to needle the senator on the first anniversary of her detention? What purpose did that serve, other than to give the impression that the Palace spokesman could be as catty as any of the women in the opposition he seems to despise?
Predictably, De Lima responded, by saying Roque had “bartered his dignity and reputation as a human rights lawyer, in exchange for a senatorial berth.”
Obviously stung by the retort, the presidential spokesman cast all pretense of civility to the wind, saying he wished the senator would spend the rest of her life in jail.
Is this really the way the spokesman for the highest elected official in the land ought to behave?
Not content with that exchange, the Palace spokesman decide to do a bit of yellow-baiting last week by praising the contentious Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson—who only recently asserted that the People Power Revolution was the result of “fake news”—as a role model for Filipino women because of her “bravery and courage to change her life.”
“Women should emulate Uson for her courage to change her past life and pursue a decent living and strive to excel in her new endeavor,” Roque said of the former sexy dancer turned blogger turned Duterte supporter turned assistant secretary.
His remarks came as the nation marked National Women’s Month and were made in an interview with Los Angeles-based Duterte supporter “Binibining Maharlika.”
Mr. Roque may believe he was merely preaching to the choir in this instance, but he forgets that there are many people who have no sympathy whatsoever for the discredited Liberal Party but who also want nothing to do with an unqualified assistant secretary who seems to believe press freedom should only be available to those who support the administration and who are offended by his remarks.
The presidential spokesman, whose job it is to deal with the press, ought to focus on this core responsibility, instead of making provocative statements that serve only to muddy the discussion of national issues.