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Oportunista ka! Fellow UP prof tells Roque to resign

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By: Xave Gregorio

A professor from the University of the Philippines (UP) is calling for former UP law professor and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque to resign following his seeming shift from being a press freedom advocate to being an apologist for attacks on the press.

UP College of Mass Communication professor Danilo Arao said Roque should resign from his post as he probably cannot stomach defending violations of press freedom, including the recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision revoking Rappler’s certificate of incorporation.

“Harry, sana ay nakikinig ka ngayon. Kailangan mong magbitiw na dahil alam ko, deep inside, hindi mo nasisikmura ang ginagawa mo,” Arao said at the Black Friday protest on January 19 for press freedom.

Arao said he and Roque had worked before on campaigns promoting press freedom and fought laws which they deemed infringed on the constitutional guarantee of a free press, including the Anti-Cybercrime Act.

“Ilang beses tayong nagusap ukol sa kampanya laban sa cybercrime law, tungkol sa pagbibigay ng hustisya sa Ampatuan massacre, kung paano mawawakasan ang culture of impunity, gayun din ang iba pang mga batas na mapanupil sa press freedom,” Arao said.

However, Arao noted that there has been a change in Roque.

“Ano na ang nangyari sayo? Bakit tila nag-iba ang ihip ng hangin? At ngayon, kahit ang Rappler sinasabihan mo na mag-blogger na lamang. Tila pinagaaway mo ang mga blogger at ang mga peryodista,” Arao said.

He added that if Roque opts to stick to his post as President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, then it only proves that Roque is an opportunist only maintaining the position to help his 2019 election run.

“Kung ayaw mong magbitaw sa tungkulin, talikuran mo na ng tuluyan ang sinasabi mong pagihing stalwart ng karapatang pantao at kalayaan sa pamamahayag at aminin mo na na ito ay isang oportunistang layunin mo lamang para manalo sa susunod na eleksyon,” Arao said.

Before becoming the presidential spokesperson and a representaive of Kabayan Party-list in the 17th Congress, Roque was a professor in the UP College of Law and was known for handling human rights cases, including press freedom cases.

Roque was counsel for the journalists who were slain in the 2008 Ampatuan massacre and for murdered journalist Gerry Ortega.

Roque had given updates on those cases during regular press briefings with the Malacañang Press Corps on the anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre and after the Court of Appeals (CA) decided to free former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, a suspect in the 2011 murder of Ortega.

Roque had even secured the permission of Duterte to comment in his personal capacity on the CA decision.

The presidential spokesperson had also been a petitioner in several press freedom cases before the Supreme Court (SC).

He has assailed former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Proclamation 1017 and General Order No. 5, which placed the country under a state of emergency, for infringing the freedom of speech and the press.

He was also among the lawyers who argued before the SC against the Cybercrime Act.

Now, as Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and a former journalist of the news website are facing raps under the law he questioned at the High Court, Roque continues to defend the SEC decision against the online news site and shields Duterte from taking responsibility in what is seen to be an attack on press freedom.