Press Release
November 10, 2017

On Harry Roque, the Truth Bender for Hire
by: Sen. Leila M. De Lima

In politics, image is critical, and knowing how to manipulate situations and scenarios to one's advantage, or to the advantage of one's principal, and to the disadvantage of their opponents and dissenters is a highly sought after skill of a political operator.

Make no mistake, it is a skill that requires manipulation of truth and reality. To political operators, the fact that the manipulated image or scenario no longer even bears a resemblance to the truth - or is perhaps even outrightly fabricated - isn't as important as the end result: make yourself look like a saint, while vilifying those who are exposing the hypocrisy of your action. Truth becomes Lies. Right becomes wrong.

I admit that this is one area where I am at a disadvantage: as a personal trait, I have always valued honesty and integrity. I aim not to manipulate, but to educate. I place great faith in the public's ability to tell lies from truth; propaganda from real accomplishments; and public servants from political operators.

This is why I have always been ambivalent - if not strongly against - using a mouthpiece. Who better to deliver my message than me? So that people, members of the public and the media, can see my sincerity and honesty without the buffer of a hired image manipulator. I have always let the people judge for themselves my accomplishments and worth as a public servant. What you see is what you get.

I also have to admit that this is the advantage of the Duterte Administration over us who served under the PNoy administration - because our principal then followed the same philosophy: we will let our actions, accomplishments and, yes, even our failures to speak for themselves. Hindi kami naniniwala noon sa progapanda, lalo na sa pagbubuhat ng sariling bangko. Hindi rin namin minamanipula o tinatakot ang media, at malaya silang nakapagbabalita kahit tungkol sa pinakamaliit naming pagkakamali dahil iyon ay mahalaga upang matuto kami kung paano mas maayos na makapagsisilbi sa bayan. When a government denies their mistakes and sweeps everything under the rug, how can they be held accountable?

That is why, as difficult as it was to do one's job under the glare of public and media scrutiny, we chose to endure and even value the criticism because a strong media, in the face of a strong government and in a society that is run by wealthy private interests, is what is needed to protect the public's interest.

What we "saved" from funding propaganda machineries, we chose to put into improving public and social services.

We put so much faith in the power of Truth. And that is why Truth is now under attack. Fake news. Propaganda. Political operators as spokespersons.

It would be funny, if it wasn't so depressingly infuriating to see, that the President who claims to be a plain talker - who claims he has to be given a pass for being an uncouth and foul-mouthed narcissist and misogynist because he "tells it like it is" - has hired so many mouthpieces, including bloggers and social media personalities, and invested billions of pesos on his communications and propaganda machinery. The hypocrisy would be hilarious if it wasn't for the fact that it is Filipino taxpayers' money that is being wasted on attempting to cosmetically alter one unrepentant man's broken humanity, and to simultaneously destroy those who speak the plain truth against him.

It is in this context that we must view the statements thus far made by newly minted Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

I've had occasion to work with Mr. Roque before, when I was CHR Chair and Secretary of Justice. For some years, actually.

Enough that I would have, at a different time, been fooled into thinking that he is sincere when he said that he wishes me well.

But he betrays his own credibility and sincerity because of his prior and contemporary acts and statements.

He tells me that he wishes me well, yet he was at the forefront of the slut-shaming spectacle and despicable treatment I received at the hands of members of the House of Representatives last year. He proved to be a great disappointment to the human rights movement because, previously, he projected himself to be the defender of the oppressed, even lawyering for high publicity cases about abused women, yet he said things that no true human rights advocate would make about another person. Shameful doesn't even begin to describe it.

He also betrays himself to be the political operator he is aspiring to be because, while he purports to take the high ground by wishing me well, he goes on to say that I "did not do anything" as CHR Chairperson and Secretary of Justice.

That's a lie, and he knows it. A convenient lie for him and his principal because it obscures the reality of why I am being persecuted.

My accomplishments speak for themselves, loudly and clearly, especially given the fact of where I am as I write this piece. I am under detention precisely because I performed my job in both capacities without fear or favor.

I dared to speak out about the violence of a powerful Mayor, "The Punisher", back in 2009, for instance.

I caused the investigation of the PDAF Scam, which resulted in exposing how so-called lawmakers and public servants were complicit in stealing from the national coffers.

As Secretary of Justice, I championed the fight against human trafficking or modern day slavery. It might not have had such a sensationalistic bloody appeal as the so-called "War on Drugs", but the result speaks for itself: there were more convictions during the Aquino administration because of the Composite Team (investigators and prosecutors) approach we implemented, and it resulted in the elevation of the Philippines to Tier 1 Status, up from where it was languishing at Tier 2.

The DOJ, during my time, worked closely with other departments, including the DILG and the DENR to address common issues like illegal gambling, illegal logging, illegal mining, etc. This is because to say that "justice sector reforms" is the sole problem of the DOJ is to oversimplify reality. Justice Sector Reforms require a comprehensive capacity and cooperation building approach, hence, the tripartite DOJ-DILG-SC partnership collectively forming the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC).

I led the major drug raid, the first ever, that dismantled the luxurious lifestyle of high-profile inmates inside the Bilibid - which earned the ire of these same convicts, who are now exacting their revenge on me by falsely testifying against me.

Also, Harry Roque should know this, I worked hard to ensure the progress of the Maguindanao Massacre case, even in the face of daunting challenges - including the power and influence of the personalities involved, the sheer number of accused and witnesses, the security risks that the prosecutors faced, the internal dynamics between private and public prosecutors, etc.

These are just some of my accomplishments as a public servant. That he glosses over this, and other efforts I made during my time as Secretary of Justice which he ought to know about, including the prosecution of the Laude case, is a political stunt. Nothing more and nothing less.

I am not saying that I am an ultra performer. Nor am I asking for hallelujahs. I am not perfect. But I will speak up to try to set the record straight.

Harry Roque thinks that he can manipulate reality by greasing the media with "pandesal" and appearing to take their side against his fellow propaganda artist, Uson, in their dramatized conflict about the appalling treatment that certain vocal and independent media organizations are receiving. But that is all that he is doing: he is attempting to bend reality to his will. Like the good, little propaganda artist and political manipulator that his principal wants him to be.

But to what personal end would one such as he - who has, for years, marketed himself as a human rights lawyer - would make such an obvious heel turn remains to be seen. Time will tell.

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