The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines congratulates presidential spokesperson Harry Roque for turning the regular Palace briefing into his own online channel, where he can engage in antics like calling out a journalist on national television for asking him for comment on reports that Filipino fishermen are being barred from fishing inside the lagoon of Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.
While government officials are free to disagree with and even try to debunk news reports, as Roque did by bringing out local government and coast guard officials to say there are no reports of Filipino fishers being harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard, it is hoped that this would be done in a civil manner expected of the office of the presidential spokesperson.
In the documentary “Our World,” BBC reported that Chinese vessels continue to impose a blockade in the Scarborough Shoal, a reef within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, preventing fishermen to access the resource-rich lagoon five years after an international court upheld the country’s claim to parts of the South China Sea.
Virma Rivera, a freelance journalist for the BBC, had simply texted Roque for comment on the interviews and footage her team acquired. This was no license for the presidential spokesperson to call her out and to order her on national TV to call town mayors or to denigrate her team’s output as mere gossip.
Perhaps it is a good time to remind Roque of the hashtag he has been trying in vain for months to get trending: Kalma lang.