MANILA, Philippines – Before the country’s most vote-rich province, erstwhile enemies Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and former Duterte spokesman Harry Roque are now not just friends, but “twins.”
The two politicians, in perhaps a not-so-surprising turn of events, decided to put the past behind them during an event hosted by Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and the province’s leading business personalities on Monday, December 6.
A taste of what was to come came in the form of a merienda at the provincial capitol hosted by Garcia where Moreno, in his campaign color blue, was seated beside Roque, in green, on a table laid with food.
The two men could be seen talking to each other in a table they shared with Garcia, her brother Deputy Speaker Pablo John Garcia, Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama, Moreno’s campaign manager Lito Banayo, and other personalities.
The two stood beside the Cebu governor and Mayor Rama during the capitol Christmas light-up ceremony.
It was Roque who first referred to Moreno as his “twin,” at the Sugbo Negosyo awarding ceremony the two politicians guested.
“Mayor Isko Moreno, I will let you be the judge but people say we look like twins. Sabi ko, medyo mas guwapo ako nang konti kay Mayor Isko (I said, I’m a bit more handsome than Mayor Isko) but that’s what they say,” said the former Duterte spokesman who, back in September, dismissed Moreno’s call to national government to buy COVID-19 medicines as mere 2022 politicking.
Moreno returned the favor. Referring to his wish to be just as accepted by the Garcias as an “adopted son” of Cebu, the Manila mayor said, “Huwag ka mag-alala Harry, malapit na, magiging kapatid na tayo. Twin eh.” (Don’t worry Harry, soon, we will be siblings. Twins, you said.)
The presidential aspirant made a veiled reference to his stinging words against Roque when he was still presidential spokesman. He and Banayo, he said, would often talk about how difficult Roque’s role was back then.
“Ambassador Lito Banayo and I would talk about how hard it is, defending such policy. But he (Roque) has to because that’s part of the job,” said Moreno.
“Truth be told, Harry, we are really amused at how you really, you know, make a point on something. We may disagree or agree on something but what matters the most, at the end of the day, we must excel in our field of undertaking and I think, Secretary Harry Roque, you excel in your field of undertaking, Senator Harry Roque,” continued the 47-year-old Manila chief.
These generous words are in stark contrast to Moreno calling on President Duterte to fire Roque back in September for being “out of touch with reality.”
“Nananawagan ako, Mr. President, tanggalin ‘nyo ‘yung mga taong walang malasakit sa kapwa niya,” Moreno said back then, in a rant where he left out Roque’s name.
(I am asking you, Mr. President, remove the people who don’t have compassion for their fellow human beings.)
Moreno had been reacting to Roque’s Malacañang press briefing remarks in which he dismissed the mayor’s call for more COVID-19 medicines as mere politics to drum up his presidential bid.
The mayor’s friendliness to Roque is just another sign of growing rapprochement between him and the Duterte camp. Hours before, he said he would welcome President Duterte as a guest candidate in his senatorial slate.
Even Governor Garcia played along with the “twin” joke, referring to Moreno as Roque’s twin. While she fondly called the ex-Duterte mouthpiece her “BFF” (best friend forever), it was her brother, Deputy Speaker PJ Garcia, who was all praises for Moreno and gave his personal endorsement for the presidential bet.
Representative Garcia spoke highly of Moreno’s mayorship and called him a “fascinating” leader who has “achieved so much” in a brief period. He then introduced him as “the man who will be the next president of the Republic of the Philippines.”
There was no such categorical statement of endorsement from Governor Garcia, though she commented in her speech that her brother had “exposed [his] sentiments tonight.”
PJ is secretary-general of One Cebu, the local party Gwendolyn heads. In late November, Garcia said it was still “too early” for One Cebu to endorse any presidential aspirant. She said she would consult her family and other One Cebu members to ensure such political choices do not lead to any rift among them.
Just a month before the 2016 elections, Garcia, then an ally of former vice president Jejomar Binay, decided to shift allegiances to Rodrigo Duterte who ended up winning the race in Cebu.
Garcia is a member of Duterte’s party, PDP-Laban, which may soon be lacking a 2022 standard-bearer after Senator Bong Go announced his intention to withdraw from the presidential race. Moreno’s camp has said this could be an opportunity to attract more support for the Manila mayor. – Rappler.com