TIMELINE: Harry Roque’s days of indecision on Senate bid

Jodesz Gavilan

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TIMELINE: Harry Roque’s days of indecision on Senate bid
Even President Rodrigo Duterte admits to having been frustrated by his former spokesman's changing plans on running for senator

MANILA, Philippines – Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday, October 15, finally sealed his bid for a seat in the Senate.

Filing his certificate of candidacy (COC) with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), he ended days of uncertainty that had frustrated even President Rodrigo Duterte.

The former human rights lawyer’s indecision and ever-changing plans stemmed from a public statement by Duterte that he shouldn’t run for senator because he wouldn’t win. 

What happened during these days of indecision? Here is a short timeline.

October 4, 2018 

President Rodrigo Duterte on October 4 expresses his opinion about Roque’s bid for a Senate seat. In a speech before alumni of the Philippine Military Academy, he says his spokesperson will lose because he’s not supported by the military. 

Roque also confirms that the President, during a command conference later that day, asked him to stay, offering him another 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,” says Roque. 

October 9

Roque confirms he has already shot for his campaign ad despite being unsure of his plans because “it’s been paid for.”

“We’ve had plans. Whatever’s happend in the last few days were really major deviations from plans,” he says during a press briefing. 

Later in the day, in a chance interview, Duterte says he is frustrated about what’s unraveling..

“It’s not my fault actually. Sabi niya tatakbo siya, hindi siya tatakbo, tatakbo. Tapos sabi ko – namili na kaagad ako. Para walang paralysis sa flow ng functions. Ngayon na hindi na siya tatakbo, hindi ko na alam kung saan siya ilagay. Eh paano-ano siya eh,” he said.

(He said he’s running, not running, running. Then I said – I had to choose quickly so there would be no paralysis in the flow of functions. Now that he isn’t running, I don’t know anymore where to put him. He’s dilly-dallying.)

October 11

Kabayan party-list group says Roque reached out to them, his former group, hoping to be named as a nominee for the 2019 elections.  

The group, in a statement, says they are “quite pleased that Mr Roque considers the value of Kabayan party list, even at this very late hour,” but emphasizes that he is not a member anymore.

In January 2017, Kabayan’s board of trustees decided to remove Roque as a member – a move he contested before the Commission on Elections.

Roque denies that he sent feelers to Kabayan.

October 12

Duterte says he will talk to Roque regarding his indecisiveness over his plans to run.

Bigla akong nahilo, saan ba tayo pupunta nito? I’ll just talk to him better. Ano ba talaga? Tatakbo, hindi, tatakbo, hindi?” Duterte told reporters. “Buti pa paabutin ‘yan ng 2021, longer space to make a choice with finality.”

(I got confused, where are we going with this? I’ll just talk to him better. What’s really the plan? Are you running or not? Maybe it’s better if it reaches 2021, longer space to make a choice with finality.)

October 15

Roque announces on October 15 that he will be a nominee of Luntiang Pilipinas the party list.

Luntiang Pilipinas was established in 1998 as an urban forestry program by Senator Loren Legarda.  A 2003 Newsbreak report found that it failed to deliver on its environmental thrusts.

Roque says he will file his certificate of nomination and certificate of acceptance of nomination to be a representative of Luntiang Pilipinas.

Explaining his decision-making process, Roque says Duterte adviced him to work for a seat in the House of Representatives, adding that the Senate race is already crowded.

“The decision to go for Congress is an advice I took,” he says. 

October 16

Roque is a no-show at the Commission on Elections on the day he was supposed to file certificate of nomination and certificate of nomination acceptance as party-list representative for Luntiang Pilipinas. 

Harry Roque speaks to the media outside the Comelec office in Manila after filing his certificate of candidacy for senator on October 17, 2018. Photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

October 17 

Roque finally appears at the Comelec to file his COC for senator. 

The former presidential spokesperson will run under the the People’s Reform Party, adding that it was Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, the President’s daughter, who arranged his nomination from the political party of the late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

He says he hopes to become the “voice of Santiago” if he wins.

He also wishes that Duterte will endorse him because “he is the best president under existing conditions, and I will continue to defend the President.” – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.