Roque: 'I'm Duterte's spokesman to all Filipinos'

PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday dismissed the call of President Rodrigo Duterte's staunch supporters for him to resign after he supposedly defended the mainstream media.

Speaking to Palace reporters, Roque explained that he was delegated as the presidential spokesman to convey the Duterte administration's accomplishments to all the Filipinos people and not just to a select audience, specifically the President's "die-hard followers."

"The President really does not need the spokesperson to speak to his own followers, die-hard followers," Roque, Duterte’s newly-appointed spokesperson, told a press conference.

"So I speak as a spokesperson of the President to all Filipinos, especially to those who I believe should have a better understanding of what the President is doing, what the President is saying," he added.

The Palace official's statement came a day after pro-Duterte blogger Rey Joseph Nieto said that Roque's appointment was a "big mistake."

The apparent rift between the two began when Roque on Monday, the first day of his new job as a presidential spokesperson, urged Duterte's defenders to let the "legitimate" journalists wield their rights to freedom of speech.

Roque made the remark following Nieto's recent comment that the new presidential spokesperson should throw a hollow block at Rappler reporter Pia Ranada.

Unfazed by resignation calls, Roque said he accepted criticisms from Duterte's supporters as "valid inputs in the free marketplace of ideas."

He added he would also inform Duterte about Nieto's appeal that he should resign as the presidential spokesperson.

"We serve at the pleasure of the President. All Cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the President. What I will do is I will facilitate receipt of this information by the President. I will tell the President that Mr. Nieto has said that I should be removed. I will relay that to the President," Roque said.

"I do not deprive the social bloggers of their freedom as well. And I take all their criticisms as valid inputs in the free market place of ideas. I've always taken all criticisms as valid inputs in the free market place of ideas," he added.

Roque said he was merely fulfilling his mandate to deal with members of Malacañang Press Corps, carrying Duterte's marching orders to "do what is right and stay to the truth."

"My role is spokesperson. I communicate Palace's messaging to the people in general. That includes the social media. But I think the controversy really is why the spokesperson appears to be addressing the needs of media," he said.

"The President gave me two marching orders: Do what is right and stay to the truth. I stated what I think is right and I stated what I think is true. I am a spokesperson. I deal with Malacanang Press Corps and I have long been an advocate of freedom of expression. I leave it at that. That’s the nature of this freedom," he added. (SunStar Philippines)
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