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Presidential spokesman mouthpiece, not adviser of Duterte —Lagman

A presidential spokesperson serves as the "mouthpiece" for the chief executive, not his adviser on human rights, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said on Sunday.

This was his response to incoming Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque's statement that he accepted the post in hopes he could discuss human rights concerns with President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, opposition lawmaker Lagman said Roque is seemingly "expanding his turf" even before he assumes position as presidential spokesperson.

"The presidential spokesman is the President’s alter ego after the fact, not a precursor of the fact," he said.

Roque, a lawyer and formerly a representative of the Kabayan party-list, on Saturday confirmed his appointment as the new spokesperson for Duterte, following the President's announcement last Friday.

"I considered the position with the specific purpose of getting an audience with the President to address key human rights issues in the Philippines," he said in a statement, adding he has offered to be an adviser regarding the matter.

Lagman, however, said that Roque's plan of advising Duterte about human rights is within the jurisdiction of the justice secretary.

The Duterte administration has been the center of criticism among local and international bodies due to the President's bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

"The role of a spokesman is to incant, elaborate or moderate the President’s pronouncements, not to mold the Chief Executive’s statements beforehand," Lagman said.

"A spokesman reports the President’s statements but does not advise his principal on what to say." 

Lagman likewise pointed out that Roque cannot be a spokesperson and an adviser at the same time, saying that an advice may not be heeded, while a contrary opinion of the President should be articulated by the spokesperson.

"Nowhere in Executive Order No. 4 dated 10 July 2010 'Reorganizing and Renaming the Office of the Press Secretary' and previous executive issuances relative to the position of presidential spokesman is there any grant of authority to the latter to advise the President on matters," Lagman said.

This, he said, only involves advice on “messaging system” and “communication strategy” of the Office of the President.

Roque's term as presidential spokesperson will start on November 6. —LBG, GMA News