If only for the rate at which he has been opening his mouth, Harry Roque must be earning his keep as presidential spokesman. But, by persisting to go headlong for his boss, he could end up joining him on the same mental plane, a not exactly healthy prospect.
That prospect emerges from the way he conducts his new relationship with the news media. He opened with a threat to throw hollow blocks at Duterte critics; then, all too suddenly, he transforms from violent to biblically benign, switching from hollow blocks to bread.
After all, by revealing “the weaknesses of the past administration,” the media, Roque says, helped Duterte win the election. While the media would only be wasting their time dwelling on his insult, they would be remiss if they didn’t set him straight for being selectively simplistic and intellectually dishonest.
The past administration in fact produced some of the best socio-economic results the nation has seen in the 30 years of its restored democracy – notably in productivity, investments, poverty alleviation, and crime control. In fact, it left an inheritance in reserves and unused credit lines that would have made for a strong head start for its successor. Duterte’s own finance secretary admitted as much only recently.
More credibly, Duterte won the presidency by exploiting a popular weakness for shortcuts to prosperity through a campaign of misrepresentation and outright falsehoods that employed an army of bloggers and trolls, a campaign carried on to this day to disguise the utter lack of achievement of the Duterte regime. For his part, Roque, having to lead as chief disguiser, picks his own tales from the air in self-assured hopes of being able to palm these off by dint of intellectual salesmanship. Anyone who does anything like that constantly is at risk of going from disingenuous to delusional.
I must confess not having at all detected in Harry Roque any proneness to delusion until he went to Congress; I had known him as a man of law, a militant defender of freedom and rights. It was as a member of the House of Representatives that he began to betray an allegiance to Duterte that was to become more and more barefaced. Consenting to be an alter ego of Duterte could only have been a closely considered decision for him; he made it even after Duterte had become fully exposed as the erratic, volatile, despotic, and generally deviant character that he is.
If Roque shows reservations, these are nothing more than an attempt to be seen as redeeming some part of his conscience and not having wholly sold out. He makes a big thing, for instance, of a resolute opposition to the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal liability.
Well, no one should be fooled. It is a perfectly timed and perfectly safe reassertion of an old conviction. Duterte has in fact abandoned both advocacies, though surely only for the time being, because his proposed laws providing for them face certain defeat in the Senate.
Roque, to be sure, has a problem common to many turncoats: he is disliked on both sides. In fact, party-list colleagues had felt betrayed much earlier – for aligning himself with Duterte’s House majority – and had begun denouncing him publicly. Now a full-fledged Duterte enforcer, he can expect further alienation.
But neither is Roque fully accepted in the Duterte camp. One particularly bellicose Duterte blogger has called for his resignation. The blogger, apparently not sophisticated-minded enough to grasp Roque’s tricks, took his attitude toward the media as conciliatory; actually, it’s patronizing.
Resignation is definitely out of the question for Roque, he says so himself, and I can think of no stronger motive that may have driven him to such a desperate deal than ambition. He has made little effort to conceal his covetousness of high public office even before he became a party-list member of the House. He eyed other Cabinet appointments before.
He told me he had passed up an offer for the United Nations ambassadorship, giving the impression he did not intend to get that close – which I took to mean officially or, at any rate, unmistakably, close – to the Duterte regime. Apparently now, the offer simply did not fit into his political plans; it would not raise his national profile enough to make him a contender for a Senate seat in the midterm polls.
Who was it who said ambition is “a proud covetousness…a dry thirst of honor, a great torture of mind…a gallant madness…a pleasant poison”? – Rappler.com