March 24, 2023

While Typhoon Ulysses was dumping its fury along swathes of lands in Cagayan, Isabela, Bulacan, and Metro Manila, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque was caught on camera inside one of the videoke restaurants in Baguio City blurting his heart out to the tune of Eraserheads’ hit song Pare Ko.
This did not sit well with several progressive groups who lashed out against the Presidential spokesman. “While tens of thousands of Filipinos are suffering, calling saints in the middle of ravaging typhoon, the presidential spokesperson was having a time of his life like there was no disaster,” the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a statement.
Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya’s national chair, was even more terse when he said, “Roque should be ashamed of himself, his unloading time amid emergency situation was unbecoming a public servant.” Really?
I am not just about to defend Roque, but I think he did nothing wrong. He was in Baguio days before Typhoon Ulysses entered the Philippine area of responsibility. Whether his presence here was on official business or personal, it would not have made any difference. Whatever necessary precautions to avert the aftermath of the calamity were already in place. There were agencies tasked to oversee the preventive measures and relief operations. I don’t think it would have changed anything even if he did not go to a restaurant to unload himself from a week’s hectic schedule.
Roque is not a machine. He is much a human being like the persons who are criticizing him. He too gets tired, he too gets flustered, and he too is stressed out. The only difference is that he is almost always in the limelight owing to his position as a Presidential spokesman. But, give the man a break. He deserves it. One song is all he needs to reenergize himself. Let’s not take this simple pleasure away from him and consign him into perdition because of what he did.
Sure, “there is no time to unwind when people suffer.” The sufferance is already a part of our culture. Our country has long been identified to be within the so-called Ring of Fire, the pathway of cyclones and typhoons. Thus, every year, we experience an average of at least 21 typhoons of destructive result. I don’t think even the articulateness of Roque can change this. Perhaps, he could have lent a comforting voice to assure the people that the government is doing something about their plight. But are there not enough government officials to do this? Is this not the reason why local government units are granted some measure of autonomy? Instead of singling out Roque in the same manner that the opposition is singling out President Rodrigo Duterte by coming out with a website entitled, “Nasaan ang Pangulo?” why not pry into the actions taken by local government officials at the height of the typhoon?
Year after year, calamities are blamed for the ineptitude of government officials. Year after year, victims of calamities always point an accusing finger on someone else except themselves. For this year, it seems Roque is taking the flak. C’mon, there are other matters that should preoccupy our attention than blurting out our frustrations against him.
Well, the way I look at it, the only thing wrong with the singing of Roque is that he chose the wrong song. Why? Because its lyrics portray the very trouble he is in now. “Oh, Diyos ko, ano ba naman ito…Nagmukha akong tanga.”