Opposition lawmakers on Sunday said the “charade” advanced by Rep. Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list that he is a human rights advocate ended when he accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to be his spokesman.
In a statement, Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay said Roque will be obligated to be “the President’s official apologist” and will have to “justify the unjustifiable and defend the indefensible pronouncements and policies of Duterte.”
“Roque has minimized the grave import of the unabated extra-judicial killings related to the President’s deadly campaign against the drug menace; he voted for the confirmation of the declaration of martial law and its extension; and he did not vote against the reduction of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) budget to P1,000 and even called for a zero budget for the CHR,” Lagman said.
“Roque failed to criticize Duterte’s predisposition to authoritarian rule and intention to declare a revolutionary government and he advocated for the creation of a panel to investigate the Ombudsman and recommend her impeachment for unwarranted and politically motivated reasons,” he added.
Lagman chided Roque for accepting the Palace post.
“The presidential spokesman is the President’s mouthpiece, not his volunteer adviser on human rights and other policy concerns. The role of a spokesman is to incant, elaborate or moderate the President’s pronouncements, not to mold the Chief Executive’s statements beforehand,” he pointed out.
Roque earlier said he accepted the post in order to advise the President on human rights issues.
But Lagman dismissed Roque’s explanation.
“One cannot be a spokesman and an adviser at the same time because an advice may not be heeded, and such rejection or contrary opinion of the President must be articulated by the spokesman,” he said.
Rep. Tom Villarin of Akbayan Party-list, meanwhile, said the appointment is a “win-win” for Roque and Duterte, adding the two deserve each other because they will be able to fulfill the desires of one another.
“A principal who advocates mass murder and a lawyer who masquerades as a human rights defender. It’s politically opportunistic for both as one faces imminent trial in the International Criminal Court and a UP law professor well-versed in international law that could defend him,” Villarin said in a statement.
“On the flip-side, an ambitious neophyte congressman eyeing a senatorial seat, thus, will be riding on the popularity of someone he will always be speaking about. Kudos to both!” he added.
Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao wished Roque luck in defending the “horrendous” human rights record of the Duterte administration. He pointed out that the appointment “releases Roque from the challenge of masquerading as a minority leader.”
As a lawyer, Roque represented victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, the kin of Palawan-based environmental advocate and journalist Gerry Ortega who was killed in 2011, and the family of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude, killed by a US Marine in 2014, among others.