A new mouthpiece (The Philippine Star)
This President is unorthodox, Ernesto Abella said recently, explaining to reporters one of the public outbursts of his principal. Over the weekend, Abella was out of his job, replaced by a party-list congressman who, according to President Duterte, spoke his language and could better explain what he meant to convey.
Harry Roque, who was feuding with a group in his Kabalikat ng Mamamayan party-list, now has the sole responsibility of speaking for President Duterte. Roque has his job cut out for him; some describe his position, despite its access to the President, as an unenviable one. This year Duterte’s two mouthpieces upon assuming power, Martin Andanar and Abella, fell by the wayside within seven months of each other.
According to some reports, the President was unhappy over Abella’s handling of the plunge in Duterte’s ratings in the latest Social Weather Stations survey. Whether Roque can do a better job at damage control by thinking and talking more like his principal remains to be seen.
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Besides explaining the President’s position on a host of issues, Roque will have to finesse messages conveyed in crude language. Mouthpieces of this President act as firefighters, putting out flames sparked either deliberately or inadvertently by their boss. The presidential spokesman may have to be a miracle worker, defending the indefensible – although obviously, anyone who accepts the challenge believes there’s a reasonable explanation for even the times when the Chief Executive perorates against the wrong person or group over the wrong issue.
Having worked as a human rights lawyer, Roque might do a better job of explaining the human rights policy of the administration. While Roque’s job is not that of an adviser, perhaps the President can consult his new spokesman on matters involving human rights. If the President wants his mouthpiece to do a better job, the change must go beyond picking a new person for the task. Change comes best from the person on whose behalf the mouthpiece speaks.
Courtesy: The Philippine Star | Updated October 30, 2017 – 12:00am
BACK TO MAIN EDITORIAL:
Atty. Harry Roque makes it seem like switching from the post of House deputy minority leader to spokesman of President Duterte and his administration will be that easy.
The metamorphosis of a “turncoat” originally was more complicated. It has a military origin. In battle, opposing armies generally wear uniforms of contrasting colors to prevent incidents of friendly fire. The term “turncoat” indicates that an individual has changed sides and his uniform coat to one matching the color of his former enemy. For example, during the English Civil War in the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers turned their coats inside out to match the colors of the Royal Army.
In politics, the change process is less elaborate.
A turncoat simply shifts allegiance from one loyalty or ideal to another, deserting an original cause by switching to the opposing side or party.
In political and social history, turncoatism is distinct from treachery, because the switch mostly takes place in groups, often driven only by the fact that the goal that formerly benefited the person becomes either no longer feasible or too costly.
In the case of Roque’s new incarnation, the media and the public should look forward to hearing a new style and language in presenting the policies and actions of the President, and in defending him when he comes under heavy attack.
Significantly, it was President Duterte himself who announced Roque’s switch of sides: “Hindi na congressman, secretary na siya (He is no longer a congressman, he’s now a secretary).”
DU30 explained why he thinks Roque would fit the role of his spokesman, because “medyo malikot ang bunganga namin (we both have naughty, playful talking styles).”
Roque has a curious record to match. Besides being a House deputy minority leader, he represented victims of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, the kin of Palawan-based environmental advocate and journalist Gerry Ortega, who was gunned down in 2011, and the family of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude, who was killed by a US Marine in 2014, among others. Roque’s own group has withdrawn his representation of their partylist in Congress.
Roque said he accepted the new position in order to address human rights issues surrounding the Duterte government: “After much deliberation and careful consideration, I decided to accept the President’s offer to be his spokesperson for the specific purpose of addressing key human rights issues in the Philippines. As a member of Congress, my voice is limited. Politicians who relentlessly criticize the administration are simply ignored and labeled as ‘destabilizers.’ By taking this position, I hope to be able to advise the President directly regarding the manner and methods he has used to tackle the problem of drugs. I have already expressed my willingness to serve as an adviser on the matter.”
The job is not just talking about human rights and the drug war, however. Roque enters his new office with DU30 having already recorded 15 months at the helm. It has a record and a history of sorts.
Presidential spokesmanship embraces the whole spectrum of the President’s conduct of office and his administration and policy agenda. It demands skills not just in jousting with the media and the opposition. Administration supporters will expect him to be as skillful and persuasive in argument as the chief executive.
The immediate test will come when the new spokesman has to explain (1) the administration’s policy on the war on drugs, (2) the President’s unverified count of drug addicts in the country and his ever-handy lists of drug lords and their coddlers in government and the police; (3) DU30’s own dependence on a drug that is considered as the most potent of opioids today.
He will have to explain DU30’s sensitivity to criticism, which impels him to threaten to abrogate the country’s long-standing agreements with other countries, and to reject significant aid from Western countries.
The work of speaking for the President is never just talking on behalf of the man. It is constantly talking in defense of his record and his policies.
Courtesy: The Manila Times |
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