Palace spokesperson hit for mocking PDP-Laban, journalists | Inquirer News
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Palace spokesperson hit for mocking PDP-Laban, journalists

/ 05:42 AM July 16, 2021
harry roque palace malacanang

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr.
VALERIE ESCALERA/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque is earning the ire of Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III for hurling insults against the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) after years of trying to get in as a party member.

Pimentel was reacting to Roque, who said in an online press briefing on Wednesday that PDP-Laban members were so few before President Duterte joined it that they would all fit in a single jeepney.

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“If you remove President Duterte from PDP-Laban, you would go back to being just one jeepney,” Roque said.

Pimentel, a former PDP-Laban president and son of party founder, the late Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., on Thursday said membership is acquired by adhering to the party’s ideology and not by “trying to ride a bandwagon,” especially in preparation for an upcoming election.

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‘Not amused’

“We are not amused, hurt or insulted by [Secretary Roque’s] statement, but let it be known that the tricycle or jeepney that he is mocking now has produced a President in 2016. So, we might as well repeat that feat [in 2022],” he said.

Addressing Roque, Pimentel said: “You should not now throw insults when the tricycle or jeepney is one that you had wanted to ride [when you wanted to run as senator]. You now have the nerve to make fun of the party for which you once applied as a member.”

In response, Roque said he had always supported both the senator, a law school classmate at the University of the Philippines, and his father.

“So, I don’t think Koko Pimentel meant any harsh words for me because I refuse to believe that in the first place,” he said when asked for his comment on Pimentel’s remarks.

Roque added that he has been a member of the late Sen. Miriam Santiago’s People’s Reform Party since 2019.

Some journalists also called out Roque for his “condescending” remarks to a BBC correspondent who had reported that Filipino fishermen were still being barred by the Chinese Coast Guard from the Scarborough Shoal even after the arbitral tribunal ruled to invalidate China’s sweeping claims to the South China Sea five years ago.

During Wednesday’s Palace briefing, Roque presented Masinloc Mayor Arsenia Lim, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo and shipowners who all denied that local fishermen were prevented from fishing at the shoal.

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Focap statement

“If you care to call us, Virma Rivera, please do so. We will link you up with them so that we would know who is really telling the truth. OK?” Roque said.

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) took offense at Roque’s attitude toward Rivera and her report.

“The tone of Secretary Roque dismissing the BBC report as deception and rumor was disparaging and condescending, as he sought to assign ill motive to the network’s report and singled out Miss Rivera for it,” Focap said in a statement.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Roque’s seeming dismissal of her report as mere hearsay was “no license” for him to order Rivera on national television to call mayors or to “denigrate her team’s output as mere gossip.”

“While government officials are free to disagree with and even try to debunk news reports, as Roque did by bringing out local government and coast guard officials to say there are no reports of Filipino fishers being harassed by the Chinese coast guard, it is hoped that this would be done in a civil manner expected of the office of the presidential spokesperson,” the NUJP said in a statement.

“Perhaps it is a good time to remind Roque of the hashtag he has been trying in vain for months to get trending: Kalma lang (calm down),” the group said.

Women journos

It was not the first time that Roque had treated journalists, particularly women, “with disrespect,” Focap said.

“Our members were merely doing their jobs. They reported what they saw, and presented the story they were told,” it said.

Roque has been most at odds with Rappler’s Malacañang reporter Pia Ranada, whom he often cuts off.

In January, Roque snapped at CNN anchor Pinky Webb for asking a question he thought was “unfair.”

In May last year, he publicly embarrassed CNN reporter Triciah Terada for allegedly misquoting him in a story she did not even write, and for a remark that he actually uttered.

—WITH REPORTS FROM MELVIN GASCON, KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING AND JEROME ANING
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TAGS: Mock, PDP-Laban, Pimentel, Roque
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