By Genalyn D. Kabiling
President Duterte has appointed Kabayan party-list Representative Harry Roque as his new spokesman, replacing Ernesto Abella, who served in his post for more than a year.
The President announced the latest addition to his Cabinet during the birthday celebration of Roque in Davao City on Friday night.
“Hindi na congressman, secretary na siya [He is no longer a congressman, he is now a (Cabinet) Secretary],” Duterte said about Roque’s new appointment.
“To make his entrance dramatic, he will be attending the first Cabinet meeting on Monday,” he said, referring to the Cabinet assembly scheduled on November 6.
Roque, a human rights advocate and law professor, is also expected to join the President’s three-day official to Japan this week.
Just a few days ago, the President described Roque as “my senator” when they attended the MassKara festival in Bacolod City.
He previously asked Roque to join one of his foreign trips, saying he respected the lawmaker’s independent views on issues.
Early Friday, Abella’s assistant China Jocson dispelled rumors that the mild-mannered spokesperson was leaving his post after skipping his regular press conference at the Palace.
“He is still Presidential spokesperson. He is carrying out his mandate,” Jocson told Palace reporters about Abella. “He is not here right now and it is not unusual, I have done several briefings on his behalf so there is no — nothing unusual with the Presidential Spokesperson’s absence today,” she added.
Abella, a former pastor and businessman, was named Presidential spokesman in June 2016.