Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained his side on his now viral outburst during last Tuesday’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) meeting, saying he just took up the cudgels for “hungry and lockdown-weary” Filipinos.
“Kinukumpirma ko po na tayo ay naging emosyonal–at pasensya naman po kayo, tao lamang–doon sa rekomendasyon ng dalawang doktor, si Dr. [Maricar] Limpin at Si Dr. [Antonio] Dans na mag-impose ng hard ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) lockdown (I confirm that I was emotional–and I apologize, I’m only human–over the recommendation of two doctors, Dr. Limpin and Dr. Dans–to impose a hard ECQ lockdown),” Roque said in virtual press briefing Friday, Sept. 10.
The discussion during the Tuesday IATF meeting centered on the guidelines for the proposed pilot granular lockdowns in Metro Manila. The localized granular lockdown system has since been converted to the Alert Level System (ALS).
Roque claimed that Limpin and Dans suddenly joined the IATF meeting virtually and told officials that they should instead impose a hard ECQ for the next two weeks, or else “many people will die”.
The Palace official said he only became emotional when Limpin began to cry.
“Doon po ako naging emotional kasi para namang importante rin po na marinig yung damdamin nung mga maliliit na tao nating kababayan na nagugutom na po dahil sa parating pag-lockdown (That when I became emotional because it’s also important to hear the feelings of our poor citizens who are going hungry because of these regular lockdowns).
“Hindi po tamad and mga Pilipino, hindi po sila umaasa sa ayuda. Handa po silang mag-trabaho. Bigyan lang natin sila ng pagkakataon na magtrabaho (Filipinos aren’t lazy, they don’t want to rely on financial aid. They’re ready to work. We just need to give them an opportunity to work),” he said.
The ECQ is the strictest quarantine classification possible in terms of controlling the movement of individuals.
Roque took issue with those who seemed to imply that only those calling for a hard lockdown cared about the people’s welfare.
“Kapag ikaw ay hindi sang-ayon sa hard lockdown na magiging dahilan para magutom ang ating kababayan, hindi ibig sabihin noon na hindi ka na concerned sa mga nagkakasakit (If you aren’t in favor of a hard lockdown that will result to the people going hungry, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t concerned about the people getting sick),” he said.
“Nagalit po talaga ako dahil sa tingin ko, panahon na po na marinig ang inyong boses ng IATF. Tama na po ang lockdown (I really got angry because in my view, it’s time for the IATF to hear your voice. Enough with these lockdowns),” he added.
There is a current surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country, as new daily cases are now hitting above the 20,000-mark.
Regarding the viral video of his outburst, Roque said the proceedings in IATF meetings are supposed to be secret so as to allow for an honest debate among the members.
He claimed that it was the “first time he lost his bearings” in an IATF meeting, although he denied allegations that he cursed the doctors.
“Kung mayroon po akong na-offend sa aking pananalita, well, humihingi po ako ng abiso. Pero kinakailangan naman pakinggan natin ang boses ng mga hindi naririnig sa IATF–ang hanay ng mga naghihirap at nagugutom (If I had offended anybody with my words, well, please excuse me. But we need to hear the voice of those who haven’t been heard by the IATF–the suffering and the hungry),” he said.
Pressed for a categorical apology, the spokesperson said: “Yung mga na-offend po sa manner (To those who were offended by my manner of talking), I apologize. But the message remains clear.”