What happened to you, Harry?
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This was the question of University of the Philippines (UP) professor Danilo Arao to his former good friend and colleague, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who used to be an ally of activists in promoting press freedom in the country and now serves a “repressive president.”
Arao dared Roque to resign if he still advocates for press freedom or stop calling himself as a “stalwart” of the cause and admit that his stint at the Palace was just another “opportunist” move for the next elections.
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“Hinahamon kita Harry, kung hindi mo na masikmura ang ginagawa mo ngayon bilang tagapagsalita ng isang mapanupil na pangulo, you should [leave] at dapat magresign ka na,” Arao said in his speech during the #BlackFridayForPressFreedom protest in Quezon City.
(I am challenging you, Harry, if you cannot stomach what you’re doing now as the spokesperson of a repressive president, you should leave and resign.)
“At kung ayaw mo magbitiw sa tungkulin, talikuran mo na ng tuluyan ang sinasabi mong pagiging stalwart ng karapatang pantao at kalayaan sa pamamahayag at aminin mo na na ito ay isang oportunistang layunin mo lamang para manalo sa susunod eleksyon,” he added.
(If you do not want to leave your job, you should turn you should admit that this is just one of your opportunist moves for the next elections.)
“Harry, sana ay nakikinig ka ngayon. Kailangan mong magbitiw na dahil alam ko deep inside hindi mo nasisikmura ang ginagawa mo,” he said.
(Harry, I hope you’re listening. You need to resign because I know deep inside you can’t stomach what you’re doing.)
Arao said he and Roque were good friends and colleagues in UP. He said Roque’s heart was strong for press freedom – he saw this as they tried to find ways to campaign against cybercrime law, seek justice for the victims of Ampatuan massacre, and explore how to put an end to the culture of impunity.
“May mga ebidensya tayo, mga litrato, mga video, para magpatunay na ang mga pamamahayag mo noon ay naaayon sa kalayaan sa pamamahayag. Ano na ang nangyari sa’yo?” Arao asked.
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(We have evidence, photos and videos of your statements before that were in line with the freedom of the press. What happened to you?)
The professor slammed Roque’s statements that went against the core of free speech, including telling Rappler reporters to be accredited as bloggers so they would be allowed to cover Palace.
Roque’s appointment as President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman came as a surprise for many. Duterte, since assuming the presidency, has criticized the media for being unfair in reporting.
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