The crabby spox

The crabby spox

Harry Roque is the only presidential spokesman who is petulant, ill-tempered, grouchy and crabby.

Roque is the complete opposite of what a presidential spox should be: suave, urbane and svelte.

A spokesperson is supposed to be a lightning rod, deflecting troublesome questions directed at his or her boss.

Let us consider the caliber of the following people: Francisco Tatad, Rene Saguisag, Teddy Benigno, Buddy Gomez, Rodolfo Reyes, Jess Sison, Hector Villanueva, Jerry Barican, Mike Toledo, Dong Puno, Ignacio Bunye, Silvestre Afable, Milton Alingod, Bobi Tiglao, Edwin Lacierda, Abigail Valte and Ernesto Abella.

The above-named individuals were either spokespersons or press secretaries of our country’s Chief Executives: Ferdinand Marcos (Tatad); Corazon C. Aquino (Saguisag and Gomez); Fidel V. Ramos (Reyes, Sison, Villanueva); Joseph Estrada (Barican, Toledo and Puno); Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Bunye, Afable, Alingod and Tiglao); Simeon Benigno Aquino (Lacierda and Valte); and Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte (Abella).

They all gave justice to their positions, either as a spokesperson or a press secretary.

Abella, Mr. Duterte’s first spokesman, lent prestige to his position. One wonders why this mild-mannered man was relieved of his position when he had good rapport with the usually raucous reporters and projected himself well before television cameras.

But Roque is something else. If Digong is sometimes in a quarrelsome mode, Roque should have kept the balance by being calm and collected.

Roque sometimes quarrels with reporters. In several instances, he scolded some of them in public, and even barred one from entering the Malacañang compound.

Roque is not the same guy from way back. As a human rights lawyer, he defended in the courts reporters who were harassed by then first gentleman Mike Arroyo.

He was friendly and mild-mannered then. I wonder what changed him? Would it be power, perhaps?

I remember what my late friend, Rick Lim, a public relations practitioner, said about power: “Use your power to make friends. It’s easy to make enemies, and hard to know who your real friends are when you’re up there.”

Roque’s demeanor lately – berating a doctor who opposed the lifting of the hard lockdown – made him a kontrabida in the eyes of the public.

He has lost votes for his planned Senate run.

Even his alma mater, the University of the Philippines, has disowned him.

The UP’s executive committee has opposed Roque’s bid to become a member of the International Law Commission, saying that “his inclusion… would not serve its purpose but instead diminish the reputation of the (United Nations) body.”

* * *

Unlike some of his fellow Cabinet members, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra stays neutral in the quarrel between his boss, President Digong Duterte, and Sen. Dick Gordon.

Digong wants the funds given by the government to Dick’s Philippine Red Cross (PRC) audited.

The Commission on Audit (COA), an independent body, earlier refused to do Digong’s bidding, saying the PRC is not a government agency; therefore, it can’t be audited by the COA.

“I believe that the personalities concerned will resolve these issues in a most cordial and professional manner,” Guevarra said, referring to Digong and Dick.

In a statement that neither contradicts nor backs the President’s order to audit the Red Cross, Guevarra said:

“The PRC is a highly reputable organization that is expected to manage its funds, whether private or public, in accordance with standard accounting methods and in pursuit solely of its statutory objectives. It is also duty-bound to submit an annual report of its activities and financial condition to the President of the Philippines as its honorary president.”

Unlike presidential spokesman Harry Roque and presidential legal adviser Sal Panelo, Secretary Guevarra is not a yes-man.

But Guevarra puts his objection in a very courteous manner.

This guy should be appointed to the Supreme Court before Digong leaves office.

A Bar topnotcher from the Ateneo de Manila University College of Law, Guevarra would do justice to the High Tribunal.

* * *

Former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang is being disowned by compatriots he was trying to impress big time.

“Sir, please help us! People might think that we are part of Michael Yang’s group,” Kitson Kho messaged me from Hong Kong.

Kitson is one of two sons of Xu Min Liang, a.k.a. Jose Kho in the Philippines, who is a real estate tycoon in Fujian province and who plans to reclaim hundreds of hectares of land from Manila Bay to turn it into a copy of Singapore.

A photograph showing the Khos – Jose and sons Kitson and Luis – is being disseminated in social media, showing them with the President and Yang in Malacañang.

“Can you help me write something to dispel rumors that we are Yang’s business partners because of that photo? It seems that media organizations always use our photo with Yang,” Kitson said.

I vouch for the Khos not having any business dealings with Yang.

Yang gatecrashed an audience we had with the President in Malacañang, way back in 2017.

I arranged the audience with the President after the Khos approached me. They wanted to tell the President that they were building a P500-million complex in Mindanao as a drug rehabilitation center.

The gesture was in gratitude for allowing Jose Kho to do business in the Philippines.

While the Khos, a Chinese lady who introduced them to me, and I were waiting for Digong, Yang barged into the room.

When the President came, Yang met him at the door, whispered to him, summoned the Khos and introduced them to Digong.

It turned out that somebody in the Palace informed Yang about the Khos’ visit.

Yang, who’s also from Fujian province like the Khos, apparently wanted to impress my Chinese hosts that he was very influential with the President.

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