Roque loses cool on TV interview over prof’s challenge to UP grads in Cabinet

Published January 20, 2021, 3:24 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque blew his top when asked if he will take on the challenge posed by journalist and University of the Philippines (UP) professor Danny Arao on members of President Duterte’s Cabinet to denounce the unilateral abrogation of the accord between the university and the Department of National Defense (DND).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (RESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

In an interview with CNN Philippines Wednesday morning, Roque called out “The Source” anchor Pinky Webb who read Arao’s tweet and asked Roque, a UP alumnus, if he will take on the challenge to denounce the DND’s decision.

Arao’s tweet read:

“UP faculty and alumni who are Duterte’s top-level officials should denounce Lorenzana’s letter terminating the 1989 accord. This disregards everything that UP stands for. Should they remain silent, a six-word question: Where is your honor and excellence?”

In response, Roque initially said that the DND and the UP should sit down and talk about why was there a need to terminate a 30-year-old accord at this time. He likewise explained that he can’t give a personal answer since he is the presidential spokesman.

“I’m also [the] presidential spokesperson. There’s really no such thing when you are a presidential spokesperson,” he said.

“It doesn’t [make me silent about the issue] and I’m not duty-bound to follow anything that Professor Arao says,” he added.

However, after the commercial break and just as Webb was about to move to another topic, Roque went back to the question about Arao’s challenge and said it was unfair.

“The question on Arao was unfair. In the first place, why am I duty-bound to follow anything that Professor Arao says? You made it appear as if it’s compulsory for me to follow him. I spent more time in UP than him,” he said.

As Webb was explaining her side, saying she did not mean to make it appear that Roque was required to respond to Arao, Roque refused to hear the news anchor’s explanation.

“You were wrong. You were implying as if I had to follow what Danny Arao has said. What is the basis for this?” he asked Webb.

“It wasn’t just a question, you wanted me to answer Danny Arao. Why should I?” he continued.

Roque repeated his accusation against Webb of not being fair, to which the news anchor responded that she was. The Palace official, however, insisted that Webb was not.

“No, you were not [fair]. You were not. It’s as if I don’t agree with Arao that I have no sense of excellence or honor,” he said.

Webb, despite being cut many times by a fuming Roque, kept her cool throughout her interviewee’s rants, even responding with a hair flip and eventually asking Roque how he wanted to end this issue so they can finally move on to the next topic.

Roque ended the issue by circling back to his initial answer to the question that it is important for the UP and the DND to sit down and talk about the accord.

The DND’s three-decade agreement with UP bars the entry of the military or the police in campuses without prior notice to the university’s administration.