Harry Roque returns as Duterte’s spokesperson

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MANILA – Human rights lawyer Harry Roque will return as spokesperson of Presidential Rodrigo Duterte more than a year after he stepped down to run as senator.

Outgoing Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo confirmed the news in a text message to reporters on Monday.

“Yup, Harry Roque will be back to his previous post. I’m still the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel. I will be performing the same role as the President’s chief lawyer and issuing statements as such,” Panelo said.

Asked why Roque was reappointed, Panelo said: “The present crisis requires a new tack in messaging.”

Panelo said Duterte has offered the position of presidential spokesperson to Roque “who, in turn, has accepted the same.”

“The Office of the President welcomes Secretary Roque back to the Cabinet and wishes him all the best as he assumes the role of the Chief Executive’s spokesman, a post he has already held in the past,” Panelo said.

Duterte appointed Roque in October 2017, replacing outgoing Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella.

Roque stepped down as Presidential Spokesperson in October 2018 to run for a seat in the House of Representatives under Luntiang Pilipinas party-list.

He, however, later decided to run for a Senate seat against the advice of Duterte, who thought that he had a slim chance of winning.

He eventually withdrew from the senatorial race during the 2019 mid-term elections due to health reasons.

In the same year, he made headlines after serving as lawyer of the whistleblowers in the alleged Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) kidney dialysis fund scam.

Roque, a former House Deputy Minority Leader, earned a reputation for defending the marginalized sector.

He represented the victims in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre, the rape victims of the World War II, the kin of murdered transgender Jennifer Laude and the family of murdered broadcaster Gerry Ortega.

He was also a law professor at the University of the Philippines who specialized in constitutional law and public international law for 15 years. (PNA)

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