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Supercilious and crass

Like a fish Harry Roque was caught by his mouth, and the image of him shooting his mouth off at Dr. Maricar Limpin, complete with a finger jabbing at the air, hogged the airwaves all day on Sept. 10, eliciting anger and disgust and, in the popular estimation, dooming his chances (such as they were) in the coming senatorial elections. Already memes have appeared, one particularly stinging because it captures the street argot requisite in campaign advertising: “Tandaan ang mukhang ito! Pupulutin sa kangkungan!” (Translated into English, it loses its punch and, like the subject, lands in the swamp-cabbage patch.)

Again Roque’s flair for histrionics got the better of him. It’s a recurring malady and includes artfully posing with dolphins during an out-of-town excursion at a time when the pandemic was severely impairing the mobility of much of the population. At the trial of the since convicted perpetrators of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, when photographs of the gruesome state of the victims’ bodies were presented, he was reported rushing out of the courtroom and toward the toilet, apparently to throw up, so deep was his alleged devastation. The reporter who recounted the incident rolled her eyes, indicating fatigue at the quite unnecessary display of OA. He was a human rights lawyer then (how long ago that was) and even then given to dramatic gestures. (And equally dramatic words, like these, uttered in 2016 at a forum on the Marcos dictatorship and referring to his future boss: “Please do not vote for this murderer, this self-professed murderer.”)

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The weary observer would find it truly tiresome that, on the afternoon of Sept. 7 at an online meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Roque quickly worked himself into raised voice and insulting language at hearing Limpin plead for an enhanced community quarantine for areas with high rates of COVID-19 infections — “a real ECQ,” she said, “not the one we saw last August.” Her own language was hardly provocative (indeed she was tearful and seemed about to weep), but he reacted as though she had sworn at him and his mother (like his boss often does to those who get the boss’ goat). “How dare you…” he said at one point, as though channeling the climate activist Greta Thunberg.

But no one’s amused, or impressed, at his tirade against the president of the Philippine College of Physicians for supposedly thinking that “only medical frontliners” were concerned about the loss of lives. His near and dear would be correct to be mortified. Again he demonstrated that he likes to make a spectacle of himself, surrendering to theatrics with much relish. Recall how, as a party-list representative, he gleefully took part in the perverse questioning of Sen. Leila de Lima’s former driver and boyfriend, reveling, like certain of his colleagues in the House, in watching their subject squirm.

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His crude behavior having been made public through a video obtained by the Inquirer’s Marlon Ramos, Roque has apologized to those “who were offended by the manner.” He was “emotional,” he said, “just human,” But his message stays, he said, and, incredibly, proceeded to mouth things about giving voice to the poor and hungry.

Yet as the President’s spokesperson, Roque has actually portrayed the Duterte administration as far removed from the reality on the ground, touting it as in control of the health crisis that worsens by the day, and his boss, the “great communicator,” as in touch with the common people. In fact, with his script alternately supercilious and crass, augmented by his principal’s “jokes” and “hyperbole,” the Palace has become aloof and distant, as though surrounded by a moat.

In berating Limpin et al. for, among other things, supposedly not having anything good to say about the government response to the pandemic, Roque presumes that no one sees through his gaslighting. He must be shown for what he is — avowedly a spokesperson with “no personal opinions” but who inflicts the same on the public as often as he can.

This pandemic has been a source of great stress to many Filipinos, and they do not need this added aggravation. If the job that has given him untold privilege is wearing him down, Roque should consider leaving it.

And who needs an “emotional” lawyer in the International Law Commission in which he is aspiring for one of the seven seats allotted for Asians? Having made a habit of gadding about, likely in preparation for hitting the campaign trail, and the likely reason for which he has twice tested positive for COVID-19, Roque is said to have flown to New York to boost his chances.

A petition concerning his nomination is swiftly making the rounds. “No pasaran!” appears to be the message.

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TAGS: Commentary, Harry Roque, Maricar Limpin, Metro Manila quarantine, Rosario A. Garcellano
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