PRESIDENTIAL Spokesman Harry Roque is eyeing a bid for a Senate seat and may announce his decision to run an not next week.
A recent development may have something to do with that decision.
His statement staunchly denying President Rodrigo Duterte had skipped an engagement because he had gone to hospital was contradicted by the President himself who revealed he had undergone another checkup and a growth had been detected in his digestive tract.
Roque said one major consideration that would factor into his decision-making on whether to remain in the Duterte Cabinet was his access to information.
He said he would not be able to continue his job as spokesman if he continued to be “kept in the dark” about the President’s hospital visits.
“In my decision on whether or not to run or accept whatever the Office of the President may have, I will consider the fact that in this capacity as spokesperson I must know everything about the President and I do concede that his going to that diagnostic exam is something I did not know and I am inclined to believe that perhaps I am not in a position to continue with this current function,” said Roque.
He referred to the President’s reported hospital visit on Wednesday that he dismissed as rumors.
“I cannot be effective as a spokesman unless I know everyting about the President. Now people think I lied,” said Roque. “I did not lie to anyone because I simply did not know.”
He said that while he is one of the few Cabinet members who receive a copy of Duterte’s daily schedule, there are large chunks of the President’s activities that are only labeled “private time.”
“Unlike other spokespersons, I had access even to his daily schedule but you can see what happened that I was in the dark and now how can people believe me when I just said he had private time when apparently he had a diagnostic examination,” said Roque.
Despite the discovery of the “growth,” Roque said Duterte’s health was still covered by rules on the confidentiality of health records.
The 1987 Constitution, he said, only mandates the President to divulge information on his or her health in the event of a “serious illness.”
“The fact that he went for a diagnostic test is not an information that the public has the right to know. And this is because a medical condition, unless it is serious, is covered by the right of privacy,” said Roque.
But the President himself believed he was not suffering from any serious disease, said his spokesman.
“If it’s not serious, we have no right to inquire into it. If it’s serious, he will be compelled to share it to the nation. Kung mayroon man siyang karamdaman (If he has an illness), he thinks it’s not out of the ordinary,” said Roque.
Roque, however, agreed that there may be a need to issue medical bulletins, even call forward Duterte’s doctor, to give assurances to the public about his health.
“If I’m still here next week then I will tell him perhaps we need to issue a medical bulletin, whether or not it’s serious. Perhaps we would need to bring in your physician because it’s the only way to stop all talk about your health,” said Roque, who told reporters he would review his planned Senate bid over the weekend.
Duterte wants Roque to stay in Malacanang. The President has asked his spokesman to drop his Senate bid and instead stay in his administration but with a different position.
“We had a command conference where the President asked me to stay and offered me a position which currently does not exist yet. While there was no categorical agreement on what to do, I did say I would consider it and I wanted the weekend to think it over,” said Roque.
Asked if he was resigning as spokesman right then and there, Roque said he would make a final decision by Monday, October 8.
Roque would be deemed resigned from his current post if he files his certificate of candidacy during the week of October 11 to 17.
The President himself gave an idea of what he thought of Roque’s Senate bid in a speech to Philippine Military Academy alumni on Thursday. He ribbed Roque that he would likely lose in the senatorial elections because the military supposedly did not support him.
“Ayan sila si Roque, gusto magsenador. Sabi ko: ‘Tama ka na. ‘Tang-ina diyan. Standby ka. Bigyan kita ibang trabaho. Hindi ka manalo diyan,’” Duterte said in his Thursday’s speech
Duterte said that when Roque asked him why he wouldn’t win, he told his spokesman, “Ah ‘yung mga sundalo ayaw sa iyo (Soldiers don’t like you).”
It was floated during the Friday press conference that Roque was offered the post of press secretary, which currently did not exist. Senate President Vicente Sotto had earlier suggested that the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) be revived in place of the Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO) headed by Secretary Martin Andanar.