COMMENTARY| Statement of the presidential spokesperson on freedom of expression

November 7, 2017 - 10:46 AM
Newly-appointed Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque tells members of the media during a press briefing in Malacañan on November 2, 2017 that he is bound to fulfill President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's order which are to do what is best for the country and to tell the truth. (Photo by Valerie Escalera/Presidential Photo)

This statement was released by presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Tuesday, November 7. We are posting it in full.

In my professional career as a lawyer, I have fought for many unpopular causes in the name of free expression, and my record speaks for itself.

At one point, over the warnings and pleadings of university authorities, law school higher-ups, and even the MTRCB, I showed to my Constitutional Law class a badly-made movie about the Prophet Mohammed that had been the target of violent fatwas from around the world. It was an important teaching moment for free expression that I could not neglect.

At another time, I successfully defended a controversial art installation by the artist Mideo Cruz that many religious leaders have called an unforgivable blasphemy. I have defended bloggers, human rights defenders, and journalists here and abroad for their right to free expression.

Politicians need to see free expression as an ally in our collective goal for a stronger democracy; citizens should fight for their fellow citizens’ right to say a contrary opinion.

We cannot have a democratic state if citizens are not able to freely discuss issues that concern them in a rational, informed, and peaceable manner.

Free expression rests on this assumption: that we can all engage in a deliberative and rational discourse, to arrive at a moment of solidarity, or at least, of understanding, the conflicting views notwithstanding.

That applies to both journalists and social media activists.

As the President’s spokesperson, my job is to get all of us into a national conversation, when we can all get out of our social media bubbles or privileged positions, so we can really get down to the difficult but rewarding business of being a country that is humane, just, and progressive.