Priority asked as Roque, Yap serve as judges in Miss Universe Philippines 2020 amid a pandemic

October 26, 2020 - 6:28 PM
Harry Roque in Miss U
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque with some candidates of the Miss Universe Philippines 2020 on this photo uploaded on his Facebook page on Oct. 25, 2020. (Photo from Harry Roque via Facebook)

Questions about priorities were raised after two prominent public officials served as judges in the recently-concluded Miss Universe Philippines 2020 amid an ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and Rep. Eric Yap (ACT-CIS party-list) took a break from their official duties when they participated as panelists in the prestigious beauty contest held at Baguio Country Club.

They were joined by former Miss Universe finalists Janine Tugonon and Ariella Arida, Frontrow co-founder Samuel Salonga Versoza Jr., fashion director Jackie Aquino, IPG Mediabrands Philippines CEO Venus Navalta, Procter & Gamble group director for media Arthur Peña and Raymond delos Santos.

Baguio First Lady Arlene Magalong, the wife of the local chief executive in the city where the preliminary and grand finals were held, also sat as one of the judges.

The pageant crowned Rabiya Mateo of Iloilo City as the winner who will represent the country in the upcoming Miss Universe after besting 45 candidates from different parts of the country.


Maria Ysabella Ysmael of Parañaque City was the first runner-up, followed by Michele Gumabao of Quezon City, Pauline Amelinckx of Bohol and Kimberly Hakenson of Cavite.

Meanwhile, when the roster of judges was previously revealed in the media, some Filipinos questioned the inclusion of two prominent public officials in the event amid an ongoing public health crisis.

“Public servants. In a pandemic and the worst economic crisis of a lifetime,” a Twitter user commented in response to the news.

“Don’t they have other more important s*it to do like… idk (I don’t know)… Prevent people from dying?????????????” another online user asked in reference to the current COVID-19 pandemic gripping the country.

The Philippines in October entered the world’s top 20 countries with the most number of coronavirus cases despite being in quarantine for 200 days at that time, a development that was met with criticisms from some Filipinos.

Independent trackers also noted that the country holds the top spot for the most number of infections in the ASEAN region.

As of Monday, the Philippines’ total death has breached the 7,000-mark, four months after it surpassed the 1,000-mark on June 7, according to ABS-CBN data analyst Edson Guido.

Politicos as panelists 

Meanwhile, a Filipino hoped that the inaugural beauty pageant can “improve” on the aspect of panelists who are tasked to judge the candidates.

“Ito ha, I wish we can let #MissUniversePhilippines2020 improve in aspects that they need to work on. Ang ‘wag lang natin palampasin, Eric Yap? Harry Roque? Government officials in a pageant? Miss Universe po ito, hindi inter-barangay na kailangan ng significant presence nila,” the Twitter user wrote.

Roque in a Facebook post admitted that being a judge in this year’s Miss Universe Philippines was the hardest job he has ever done, even though he is primarily a government official.

“Naku, isa sa mga pinakamahirap na trabaho na tinanggap ko. Mangyaring tuparin ninyo ang pangako na hindi gumawa ng mga meme sa aking mga larawan. Suportahan natin ang ating kinatawan sa Miss Universe,” the Palace official wrote on Saturday.

In 2017, Roque showed his interest in the prestigious beauty pageant by retweeting a news article about Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters getting married to National Football League star Tim Tebow.

Yap, on the other hand, was previously appointed to become the congressional caretaker of Benguet, the province where Baguio is geographically located.

It was not the first time that public officials have graced beauty pageants to act as a panelist.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno appeared as one of the judges in Miss World Philippines 2019 where he assisted in crowning Michelle Dee, the daughter of Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez.

The country’s second-highest official also acted as a judge in the 52th edition of Binibining Pilipinas, where now-Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach emerged as the winner.

Then-Camarines Sur representative Leni Robredo had asked the beauty queen about her thoughts on internet censorship.

At that time, Robredo has taken the lead on the 2016 vice-presidential polls.