Why a former presidential spokesperson is calling Harry Roque ‘balimbing’

October 2, 2018 - 7:50 PM
Former presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in 2015. (Philstar.com file photo)

Former presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda criticized current presidential spokesperson Harry Roque for “shifting principles” and lacking loyalty.

The lawyer and former cabinet official during the term of former president Benigno Aquino III in a tweet said that Roque “shifted principles” for supporting the administration of incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Balimbing” is a Filipino term commonly used to refer to politicians who change sides often.

Other allies and supporters of Aquino’s Liberal Party, including former communications undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III and singer Leah Navarro, joined Lacierda’s tirade.

Navarro also related that Roque was angered after being denied a spot on the Liberal Party’s slate for Pasay City in the 2007 elections.

Lacierda was reacting to news reports about Roque’s statement on Tuesday that the high satisfaction rate Duterte received in recent surveys was indicative of his effective performance as chief executive.

“In spite of all the challenges such as inflation and the rice shortage, we have convinced the people that our president does not sleep on his duties; he is not “Noynoying,” said Roque in Filipino during an interview with Radyo Pilipinas.

“Noynoying” is the pejorative term used by critics of Aquino in accusing his administration of inaction.

SWS survey results released late in September 2018 revealed that approval ratings of the Duterte administration improved to 70 percent in the third quarter of 2018, rising from the 65 approval rating in the previous quarter.

Roque’s past

Opposition members have accused Roque of abandoning his hardline human rights advocacy for joining the Duterte administration, which has been accused of sponsoring the series of drug-related extrajudicial killings in the country.

Prior to entering politics as a representative of the Kabayan Party-list, Roque was a seasoned human rights lawyer who represented the victims of the Ampatuan massacre, the family of murdered transgender Jennifer Laude and surviving comfort women from the Japanese occupation.

Roque supported Duterte’s decision to pull out from the International Criminal Court in March 2018 despite having supported the previous administration’s decision to ratify the Rome Statue which created the ICC.

After Duterte released Proclamation 572 that nullified the amnesty granted by Aquino to Oakwood Mutiny mastermind and opposition lawmaker Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a number of administration critics pointed to a blog post by Roque published in 2010 where he praised Trillanes’ bravery.

A photograph of Roque posing with Trillanes’ Magdalo faction that launched the failed mutiny against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was also circulated by his detractors.

Roque admitted to writing the blog post but clarified that he and Trillanes had since then gone their separate ways politically.