Eye Level SalenPresidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. is a fool—a professional one. 

There has been hardly a dull day in Malacañang since Roque was reappointed as President Duterte’s mouthpiece. Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Roque’s successor and predecessor, said the former human rights lawyer was recalled to the spokesman’s podium in April because the Covid-19 pandemic required  “a new tack in messaging.”

And boy did he not disappoint! Since his appointment, he has always found himself in hot water, entangled in some sort of scandal or controversy, usually for his arrogant remarks or overly dramatic reactions. His remarks are often infuriating and cringeworthy but one cannot deny that he’s hilarious and amusing. He’s actually befitting to be the spokesman of Duterte’s circus. 

Court jesters or fools were heavily relied upon as sources of entertainment for monarchs in medieval courts.  Seemingly as old-fashioned as the president it houses, Malacañang revived this archaic job line, replaced bright-colored jumpsuits and coxcombs with dull-colored barong for uniforms, and gave it a shiny new title: presidential spokesperson. And true enough, Roque is living up to being a modern-day jester: he also makes a living by making a joke of himself. 

In 12th century England, a fool named Roland le Pettour was given 30 acres of land by King Henry II on the condition that he would return to the royal court every year on Christmas Day to “leap, whistle and fart.” 

Roque, in some ways, if not worse, is like Roland—duty-bound to abandon his reputation and principles and humiliate himself daily in service of Duterte.

In December 2020, news of smuggled Covid-19 vaccines administered to the Presidential Security Group broke out. Expectedly the scandal drew flak as the Food and Drug Administration had yet to issue an emergency use authorization on any vaccines then. 

Roque, a sworn lawyer, defended the government’s illegal move. He was adamant that the soldiers violated no law, saying those who distributed the vaccines should be the ones held accountable instead and not the ones who had received them.

It was both shocking and unsurprising how this lawyer justified crime on national television.

But that was not the first time Roque turned away from his past self’s righteousness. 

Last year, Roque became subject of social media backlash after defending Duterte’s grant of absolute pardon to US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton Pemberton, who was convicted for killing Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude. Roque was counsel for the Laude family during the legal proceedings of the case from 2014 to 2016, but when Duterte let the American murderer off the hook, Roque immediately switched sides. Four days before Duterte granted Pemberton the pardon, the spokesman denounced the court order issuing the release of the American, saying it was an instance of “judicial overreach” that was “symbolic of the death of the Philippines’ sovereignty.” Roque would then contradict himself, defending Duterte’s grant of absolute pardon as saying: “Hindi na po kinakailangan bigyan ng dahilan ng president iyan.” In 2018, Roque said being presidential spokesman meant that he would no longer have the space to voice his personal opinions out, and it now shows. It seems that he has sold his soul to the devil in Malacañang.

There are too many examples to cite, but here are some Google search keywords to remind you of Roque’s many controversies the past year: “Triciah Terada tirade”; “Pinky Webb hairflip”;  “We beat the UP prediction… Congratulations, Philippines!”;  “Hindi naman po pupuwede na pihikan dahil napakaraming Pilipino na dapat turukan.”

To be fair, Roque is very good at his job. He’s a quick-witted spokesman with an unquestionable background. He is more than capable of deflecting the public attention away from the president’s mess. But that does not remove the fact that Roque is a fool—a professional fool and an actual fool for turning back on his moral principles to stand by Duterte, whom he had advocated against in the past for being a “self-professed murderer” comparable to Hitler and Marcos.

Duterte’s presidency is nearly over and so are Roque’s opportunities to “leap, whistle and fart.” Roque should realize that the circus will only stay in town for so long; he has to decide whether he wants to be remembered as a comedian or the joker in the pack.


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