Something big is brewing in the Presidential Communications Operations Office this month as its appointed officials have announced either their resignation or an indefinite leave.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque was the latest appointee in the presidential communication arm who announced that he would be taking a leave following gaffes he made on the whereabouts of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Roque also made the move after the chief executive expressed his opinion that Roque, who has admitted he is open to running for senator, will not win the elections.
Martin Andanar, who heads the office, similarly announced that the name of the office he runs will no longer apply soon and that his position may be given to Roque. He also said he was offered another position in government.
These developments occurred just a few days before the October 11 to 18 period for the filing of candidacy for the mid-term elections next year.
Roque’s sudden absence
Roque suddenly filed a leave of absence hours before a scheduled press briefing with the Malacañang Press Corps at 11:30 a.m. on Monday and his colleagues gave no reason for it.
The Palace only stated that Roque will take on a personal trip abroad.
It also added that Roque will not accompany the president in the upcoming trip to Bali, Indonesia for the Association of Southeast Asian leaders meeting on Thursday.
The decision followed his statement claiming that Duterte did not undergo recent medical procedures. Duterte himself admitted later that day that he visited the Cardinal Santos Memorial Santos Center for a checkup.
As the title of his position goes, Roque’s supposed to be the presidential mouthpiece and a primary source of information on the chief executive.
With the turn of events that kept him in the dark about Duterte’s whereabouts, Roque was forced to rethink his position as spokesperson.
“I will consider the fact that in this capacity as spokesperson I must know everything about the president and I do concede that his going to that diagnostic exam is something I did not know and I am inclined to believe that perhaps I am not in a position to continue with this current function,” he said.
Andanar and Uson
Andanar confirmed in a radio interview that he had submitted a draft proposal to revert the PCOO to its previous form as the Office of the Press Secretary.
The press secretary had been the head of the Palace communication team until then president Noynoy Aquino reorganized it in 2010.
Andanar confirmed that Duterte already offered the job to Roque. The latter, however, has yet to respond.
The offer came in light as the president publicly discouraged his spokesperson from running senator next year, because he does not have the military’s support.
Andanar shared that he is willing “to sacrifice” the work of heading the presidential communications team to his colleague if Roque wishes to accept it.
A few days earlier, blogger Uson vacated her role as PCOO assistant secretary during the Senate hearing of the proposed P1.41 billion budget for 2019.
The blogger-turned-government official cited difficulties with approving the budget as the main reason for her decision.
Running for an elective post?
Uson and Roque were part of the exploratory lineup of senatorial candidates for the PDP-Laban party. The two have also expressed their openness to run in separate interviews.
Roque, meanwhile, has made known of eyeing a Senate candidacy back when he ran as Kabataan party-list representative in 2016.
Andanar said he had no plans to run yet unless the government shifts to federalism. Otherwise, he’ll just return to the private sector. Before joining the Duterte government, Andanar was a radio and television commentator.