Around an hour after Rappler published a story about state media's extensive airtime for Senator Bong Go, who should call but Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, not to give Malacañang's explanation but to air the grievances of Go.
Calling around 10 pm on Wednesday, May 27, Roque first said he was unable to respond to Rappler's request on Wednesday afternoon for Palace comment because he was busy.
"But you can still edit the article right?" he asked.
He then proceeded to enumerate points raised by Go.
"Number one, Senator Bong Go ran as senator with the promise that he will never leave the President’s side until his death and he’s just being true to his campaign promise, to always be at the side of the President until he dies," said Roque.
"Number two, you're barking at (sic) the wrong tree. He has no plans for the 2022 elections because his term is until 2025. There is another candidate for President and it’s not him," he continued.
Roque later on did not respond when asked for the identity of the other presidential candidate. He also did not respond when asked why he is speaking for Go.
Asked during the phone call why Go was always present at Duterte's meetings with officials of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) even if he is not among its members, Roque said the senator was only brought into the meeting when it was time for the President to make a televised public address.
Asked why he had to be there, the Duterte spokesman said, "Because he promised the electorate that he will forever be at the side of the President until he dies."
These explanations are nothing new. Go has foisted them upon reporters when asked about why he continues to tail the President despite him already being senator, raising concerns about his independence from the executive branch as lawmaker. He has also previously denied many times that he plans to run for president, in the same way that he denied he would run for the Senate.
What's new is Roque, a Malacañang official, speaking for Go, who is not a Palace official or even a member of the executive branch. Roque has never done this for any other lawmaker.
The bizarreness of the situation wasn't lost on netizens.
"Harry now speaks for the 'senator,' too? Shouldn't he be reminded that his job exclusively covers the current president, not the 'future president'? Garapalan na ang galaw ng mga hinayupak! (The idiots' moves are too blatant!)" said Twitter user Ka Enchong.
Others made fun of Roque's dramatic tone.
"For me, he is plainly a dog and Duterte is his master or even God. Not sure if he prays to Duterte," said Twitter user John Lastrilla.
Others rolled their eyes at the claim that Go has no 2022 plans, given that he said the same thing about a senatorial bid.
Roque defending Go only confirmed Rappler's story – that resources of the executive branch are being used to further the agenda of a senator who enjoys a special bond with Duterte. – Rappler.com
Inside Track is Rappler's intelligencer on people, events, places and everything of public interest. It's a take-off from Newsbreak's Inside Track section. Contributions are most welcome. Just send bits of information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.