CHIEF Presidential Legal Counsel and long-time spokesman Atty. Salvador Panelo said the reason another lawyer, Harry Roque, is returning where he left off at Malacañang Palace in 2018 as spokesperson of President Rodrigo Duterte, is that the COVID-19 pandemic “needed a new tact of messaging.”
By implication, this “messaging” or shall we call “massaging” of vital information can be delivered to the public by the combative, cantankerous Roque better than Panelo.
Secretary Panelo did an excellent job both as presidential spox and chief presidential legal counsel these past months, but Roque’s return to the Palace should be a welcome development at this time when we need some drama or hysterics as home-bound citizens in their millions process the news from TV, radio, print, and the Internet.
Not that Karlo Nograles, spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), is remiss in his job. Cabinet Secretary Nograles is most qualified, patient with the media, always available and he dishes out information as best he could, without embellishment or fanfare. He will make a good, no-nonsense press secretary and TV-media person, and had this million-viewed exposure happened a few months before the last senatorial election, Karlo Nograles would have the national stature to run and win a seat in the Senate.
Information, too, passes thru other so-called communication officers, such as PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar and his undersecretaries, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Health Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire, General Carlito Galvez, etc. but from now on, Harry Roque will take the mike, never to be eclipsed by anybody but his boss the president himself.
One image that sticks to our mind is the newly appointed spokesman Harry, in 2017, tangling with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein who had come to the aid of UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard who had been the pet peeve of Duterte on the issue of human rights. Roque declared then, “If you throw a stone at my boss, I will hit back with a hollow block.”
Roque had good reason then to admonish High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who said that President Duterte’s action against UN officials (referring to Special Rapporteur Callamard) “made one to believe that the President of the Philippines needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric evaluation.” He added that it was disgraceful that a president could use foul language against a rapporteur who is highly respected.
Now that Harry Roque is back in harness, people will look for that “new tack in messaging” that Panelo mentioned as the reason for Roque’s return.
Filipinos by now realize that our government has a surfeit of spokesmen, but it isn’t the way messages are delivered, but the content — the meat of the message – -that is important because it touches our very lives, and sometimes, on it depends our very survival.