SENATE candidate Harry Roque Jr. has called on some media organizations to exhibit honesty and fairness, and stop twisting statements of candidates who are running in the May 9 national elections.
Roque, a former spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, made the call as he cried foul over what he called "erroneous reporting" of CNN Philippines and Interaksyon, which quoted him as saying there were no human rights abuses during the regime of the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. during a recent senatorial debate hosted by SMNI.
In a statement, Roque said that he was referring to the late president's son, presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., as the one with no record of human rights violations during that era.
He said media should be fair and objective even if they do not like a Senate candidate.
"That is what responsible journalism is all about. You don't twist a candidate's statement because you don't like him and to suit your interest. You let people decide based on your accurate reporting of events," said Roque, who is running under the UniTeam of Marcos and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
During the SMNI Senatorial Debate 2022 held on Wednesday in partnership with The Manila Times, Roque said that there is no legal evidence proving the younger Marcos violated human rights.
"Kung anuman ang nangyari sa nakaraan, iniisa-isa ko po ang records, wala pong kaso for human rights violations sa Amerika si Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (Regardless of what happened in the past, I checked all the records, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has no record of human rights violations in America)," Roque replied to fellow candidate Luke Espiritu's claim that Marcos Jr. committed human rights violations during the debate.
"Inisa-isa ko rin po ang mga kaso na decided po ng ating Philippine Supreme Court, totoo po 'yung administrator, si Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos, wala pong kaso na siya mismo ang nagnakaw (I also checked all the cases decided by the Philippine Supreme Court — the records showed that Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos has no case of corruption)," he added.
The former Palace spokesman also stressed that innocent people should not be blamed and that the presumption of innocence should be applied to all, even to sons of dictators.
"I did my due diligence, and I am certain that there are no judicial pronouncements that Bongbong Marcos is responsible for any human rights violations. He should not be held responsible for the acts of others," Roque said.
"I have again read the judicial records. There has not been an indictment against Bongbong Marcos. Second, we now have sufficient safeguards to prevent a repeat of 1972," he added.
Roque's defense of Marcos Jr. came in sharp contrast with his 2018 statement wherein he, as spokesman of President Duterte, said that Bongbong could not distort what really transpired during his father's regime.
He even acknowledged that there were decisions affirming that there were grave human rights violations committed during the martial law years.
During Wednesday's debate, Espiritu lashed out anew at Roque, a human rights lawyer who previously backed efforts for the indemnification of victims of the martial law during Marcos Sr.'s regime.
"With all due respect to Atty. Harry Roque, I know you're history. You were anti-Marcos before. You were for human rights before. You spend your life against the Marcoses. You worked for human rights and now that you were given a Senate spot under the party of Bongbong Marcos, now you cry Hallelujah and praise Marcos," he said.
Despite maintaining his stance on the issue, Roque told Espiritu that "there was nothing respectful with what you said against me."
He insisted that the point of discussion was not the "dead Marcos but the one who is alive."