By Genalyn Kabiling
Being the spokesperson of President Duterte is a difficult job, but lawyer Harry Roque considers himself a “Boy Scout” ready to get the assignment done.
Three weeks into his old Cabinet post, Roque appeared to have no regrets in accepting the job and even felt that it is the Lord’s way for him to serve more people.
“Mahirap ho talaga ang trabahong ito. Pero, Kuya, alam mo naman tayo Boy Scout, laging handa,” Roque said in a recent television interview.
(This job is really difficult but you know I am a Boy Scout, always ready.)
“Sa tingin ko naman ay hindi sapat kasi iyong ginagawa kong namimigay ng burger at ng pagkain sa frontliners … Noong dumating ang pagkakataon, sabi ko, siguro ito na rin ang tawag ng Panginoon na magbigay pa ng mas maramihang pagserbisyo,” he said.
(In my view, my distributing burgers and food to frontliners was not enough. When the opportunity came, I said maybe this is the Lord’s way of telling me to render greater service.)
President Duterte appointed Roque as his spokesperson last April 13 in the middle of the government’s response measures to the coronavirus pandemic. Roque replaced Secretary Salvador Panelo, who continues to work as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.
Last week, the President issued Executive Order No. 111 reconstituting the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson and abolishing the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.
Duterte explained there was a need to update and harmonize the communication offices under the Office of the President “to ensure efficient and effective performance of their common mandate and to streamline the release of relevant information to the public.”
Roque’s functions include speaking for the President on his actions, policies, programs, activities, cultivating relations with private media entities, and providing news and information to the public.
Roque said he made the right decision to accept the post as the President’s spokesperson, a post he first held from 2017 to 2018. He said he can help with the government’s information dissemination as the nation battles the coronavirus pandemic.
“Sa tingin ko naman tama naman ang naging desisyon, dahil sa aking trabaho ngayon ay talagang importante ang impormasyon na makarating sa ating mga taumbayan; at hindi lang po impormasyon, impormasyon kung ano ang ginagawa ng gobyerno nang sa ganoon po ay magkaroon ng pag-asa ang lahat na kakayanin po natin itong pagsubok na ito,” he said.
(I think I made the right decision because in my current job, the information that will reach the people is truly important; and it’s not just any kind of information, but information on what the government is doing, so as to bring hope to everyone that we can overcome this challenge.)
In the past three weeks, Roque has conducted virtual press briefings three times a week and granted several radio and television interviews. He has also attended meetings of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases with President Duterte.
Roque kept the nation updated on the government’s coronavirus response, including the quarantine restrictions and social amelioration programs. But he has also drawn criticism over his controversial remarks about Taiwan being part of China, as well as offshore gaming operators being part of the business process outsourcing industry allowed to operate during the quarantine period.