Newly resigned presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has admitted that President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial public kiss with an overseas Filipino worker was “inappropriate,” months after defending the president’s actions.
Roque during an interview with comedian Vice Ganda on the show “Gandang Gabi Vice” aired on Sunday evening admitted that he found his former boss widely-criticized kiss with the OFW during a speech in South Korea in June 2018.
The host had been asking the former presidential mouthpiece a series of difficult questions related to his former post and soon asked Roque if he found any of the president’s actions inappropriate.
“It was the kiss. I felt that I should have ran and pulled him away,” Roque responded.
He added that he defended Duterte’s actions because it was his job and believed that serving the president was a service to the people.
“It was my job to defend him,” he explained.
Some remain wary as Roque changes tone on the controversial kiss.
“Hollow Blocks Harry continues to pile on his mistakes. Bad mouthing your former principal is sour-graping,” said one Twitter user.
“Aba at nagsasalita na si Roque paunti-unti,” commented another.
Another Twitter user tagged the secretary’s Twitter account and asked, “What are you doing? Remodeling yourself?”
Critics from the opposition as well as women’s rights advocates slammed Duterte for the speech, accusing him of using his status as head of state to coerce Korea-based Filipino worker Bea Kim into kissing him.
He defended his actions by saying that Kim consented to the display and that the kiss was only for the sake of entertaining the audience.
Kim was among those who defended Duterte’s actions, saying that there was no malice it.
The president threatened to resign from his post following continued protests from the rights groups.
Roque’s about-face and exit from the Duterte administration
Roque, then presidential spokesperson, said that the kiss was merely a “playful act.”
“Obviously, there is no offended party here. The lady has clearly expressed the view that she was honored by the kiss,” Roque said in an interview with CNN Philippines in June 2018.
He claimed that the president’s display was a “light moment” that was accepted in Filipino culture, as exchanging kisses was considered a token by Filipinos.
Prior to vacating the post in October 2018, Roque received some criticism from the president, who said that Roque would not win the senatorial race because “the soldiers did not like him.”
Roque, a former representative of the Kabayan Party-list, later remarked that he may not be fit to carry out of the functions of the office, later filing an indefinite leave of absence.
Lead presidential counsel Salvador Panelo was later named presidential spokesperson.
Roque’s name later surfaced as one of the ruling PDP-Laban’s senatorial bets for the May 2019 elections, but during his farewell briefing on Monday said that he would instead be running as the representative of Luntian Pilipinas, an environmental party-list.
He admitted to receiving the offer to be the administration’s press secretary, a previously defunct position, but said that he decided to turn down the office as he had not yet received enough training for the post.