In case you missed it, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque seems to have gotten himself in trouble—again—during his regular press briefing earlier today, July 14.
During the briefing, Roque addressed BBC journalist Virma Rivera, who had sent a question via text message about Filipino fishers being prevented by Chinese ships from fishing on the contested Scarborough shoal. Roque brought up Rivera’s name repeatedly during the briefing, asking his guests—the mayor of Masinloc, Arsenia Lim; Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo; and Alfredo Celeste, the mayor of Bolinao—to address Rivera.
At one point, Roque said, “Kasi fifth anniversary noong award, eh baka gumagawa nga lang ng istorya para mapalala iyong relasyon ng dalawang bansa, ‘no.” (“Because it’s the fifth anniversary of the [arbitral tribunal ruling on the West Philippine Sea, Rivera] might be making up a story to sour the relationship between [China and the Philippines].”)
Even by Harry Roque standards, it’s pretty hard to watch:
Journalists aren’t taking this sitting down. The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) released an official statement on social media to object to Sec Roque’s demeanor, calling it “disparaging and condescending, as he sought to assign ill motive to the network’s report and singled out Ms Rivera for it.”
The statement went on to say that “This was not the first time Sec. Roque had treated journalists, women in particular, with disrespect.”
Strongly worded as that may be, it was the response from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) that really went to town, dishing out as much sarcasm and condescension as Roque has been known for.
“The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines congratulates presidential spokesperson Harry Roque for turning the regular Palace briefing into his own online channel, where he can engage in antics like calling out a journalist on national television,” the statement begins, going on to remind the secretary of “the civil manner expected of the presidential spokesperson.”
The statement, signed by the NUJP Directorate, ends by saying, “Perhaps it is a good time to remind Roque of the hashtag he has been trying in vain for months to get trending: Kalma lang.”
The outspoken spokesperson will doubtless have a snappy rejoinder to the NUJP’s remarks. While we wait for that volcano to blow its top, we’ll just be sitting here in a corner with our popcorn.