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The Harry Roque dilemma

/ 04:03 AM August 03, 2021

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque was right when he complained that he is the “most attacked” among government officials, because if there is one public figure in recent history who has been vilified and mocked in street conversations and on social media, it is definitely him.

But he was wrong when he claimed that those attacking him were merely trolls. Several citizens and netizens came out and identified themselves as real people who simply dislike and disapprove of the manner and style by which he expresses himself in his current position as presidential mouthpiece.

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He has been portrayed in Photoshopped images, caricatures, and memes in various ridiculous forms—among others, a dancing dolphin, Pinocchio with a bloated nose, a butanding (whale shark) sprawled on Boracay sand.

His public image has definitely clouded his otherwise impressive academic and professional credentials.

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Roque finished his undergraduate course at the University of Michigan and law at the University of the Philippines. He has a Master of Laws degree from the prestigious London School of Economics. He was a professor of public international law for 15 years in UP, and was in the advisory council of the Asian Society of International Law. He handled and argued several cases before the Supreme Court, defending human rights and other constitutional issues, and was even cited by a justice as one of the most impressive lawyers who appeared before the Supreme Court.

Being an academician, he knows international law by heart and can easily win a debate even against former justice Antonio Carpio and former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, in the same manner that he made the UP Law debating team, which he coached, win in several international moot court competitions. He gained admiration of many, including press people, for representing victims in the Maguindanao massacre, and he endeared himself to the LGBTQ+ community when he handled the murder case of transgender Jennifer Laude. He is a family man.

But just like the proverbial story of a good man gone wrong, Harry Roque has changed. Observers are seeing a Roque versus Roque in his departure from his former advocacies and by taking the opposite view on issues he had previously supported and fought for. He has trivialized government pronouncements on matters of serious public policies and concerns by using his position and platform to engage in smug chatter, at times spurning people, especially the media, and rambling on with his sordid views on matters exceeding what his job demands, namely to speak for the Office of the President.

It is perhaps this fast talk, with matching smirk and scornful look, that has cheapened official announcements and translated such occasions into loose talk that elicit jokes and nasty remarks from the public, instead of prompting intellectual discussions. If Roque’s intention is to become popular and eventually get elected to public office, he will fail. Even the President said so. And as Roque himself claimed, he is more attacked than liked.

Blame it on the wrong peruke, the dolphin twerk, the cheap talk, the retorts, the sulky looks. The demeanor of Roque as presidential spokesperson does not do his position and the country much good, much less himself and his erstwhile reputable standing.

Roque should heed that old saying: “Choose your battles wisely.” The world—especially the courts and the academe—will be much kinder to him. If he insists on and persists in his conduct as he does now, the memes about him will soon be the Harry Roque legacy.

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Victor T. Reyes holds a Master of Laws in International Law degree from Washington College of Law, American University, and has taught international law in several law/graduate schools. Email [email protected]

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