EMBATTLED Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella skipped the regular Palace briefing on Friday amid rumors that President Rodrigo Duterte is eyeing Kabayan party-list Representative Harry Roque as his replacement.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson China Joscon told a press conference Friday that Abella is "still Presidential Spokesperson."
"As you could see, the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, likewise the Presidential Spokesperson, we are carrying out our task as always. He is still the Presidential Spokesperson. He is carrying out his mandate," Jocson added.
Veteran journalist Ellen Tordesillas earlier reported that the President was eyeing to appoint Roque as Abella's replacement.
Tordesillas, quoting her sources, said that Duterte was not pleased by Abella's way of communicating with the media when his trust and satisfaction scores declined in the latest Social Weather Stations poll.
Jocson, in an interview, likewise admitted that Abella might not join Duterte’s working visit to Japan from October 29 to 31 because he was confronted with "more pressing matters."
"It is not yet final whether he will go to Japan or not. He may or may not. But currently, he has to attend to more pressing matters," she said. "You may hear from him next week, he may still give briefings, if he is in town, if he doesn't push through with the trip, he may still give briefings next week."
In a chance interview with reporters on Thursday, Abella said there was nothing official yet regarding the President's supposed plan to delegate Roque as his new spokesperson.
Amid speculations, Abella skipped the regular Palace briefings last Monday, October 23, and Friday, October 27.
Jocson, however, clarified that the presidential spokesman was initially set to attend Friday's press briefing but had to attend to an "immediate" matter.
"As far as the office is informed, there are pressing matters that Spokesperson Ernesto Abella has to attend at the moment," Abella's deputy said.
"I am not privy to the pressing matters that spokesperson [has to attend to]. He was to attend the press briefing. It must have been something immediate. I just got a call an hour before the said press briefing," she added.
Duterte is scheduled to meet Roque at the latter's birthday party in Davao City on Friday night.
Jocson said Abella's office was not privy to the details of the meeting between the President and Roque. (SunStar Philippines)