Duterte tells Roque: Stick to truth, don’t lie
DAVAO CITY — Lawyer Harry Roque says he is up to the job as presidential spokesperson and will follow President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders to “stick to the truth” and “not lie.”
The Kabayan representative on Sunday said his task was to explain to the people the views and messages of the President, as well as his election promises.
“My job really is to moderate between the news bearers and the subject himself,” Roque told reporters at Davao International Airport before joining Mr. Duterte’s entourage on his two-day state visit to Japan.
He said the President gave him specific instructions when he was picked to replace Ernesto Abella.
“(The President) said, ‘I do not want you to lie, (just) stick to what you think is correct.’ Actually, he said, ‘All of us has a sworn duty to serve the people well, so do good for the country and stick to the truth,” Roque, a human rights activist and former law professor at University of the Philippines, said.
At a news conference following his departure speech, Mr. Duterte introduced Roque as “the new Malacañang spokesperson.”
Roque would officially assume office on Nov. 6, when he takes his oath before the President.
He admitted to having reservations when presidential aide Christopher “Bong” Go first informed him about the President’s desire to have him on board as the new Palace spokesperson.
He said his being a lawyer may have contributed to the President’s decision to pick him as Abella’s successor.
“I think (Mr. Duterte) wants that his messaging also reflect the legal content by which his statements are being said,” Roque said, who has handled high-profile legal cases such as the Maguindanao massacre.
During his first meeting with Mr. Duterte, he recalled telling him that he had a temper worse and a mouth bigger than those of the President’s.
“I will be a liability,” Roque recalled telling Mr. Duterte in jest. “He said, ‘It doesn’t matter. I already have many assets. I need a liability.’”
The President said he trusted Roque to come up to the expectations as Palace spokesperson.
Asked how he would explain to the people any controversial pronouncements by the President, he said the public should not take Mr. Duterte’s every statement in a literal sense.
“Number one rule that I have realized is that you do not take the President literally,” Roque said.
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