MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday backtracked and said his former spokesman Harry Roque is fit to be a senator as he is a "fighter for human rights."
Duterte earlier said Roque would not win in the 2019 midterm elections.
In a speech in Bacolod City, Duterte admitted that Roque criticized him when the latter was still a human rights lawyer.
"But I think na kung may isa kang senador na ganito, he’s a fighter for human rights. Nu'ng nagpa-practice ito he used to criticize me," Duterte said.
"Ako naman trabaho lang, took it as part of the territory of being there in the office. Hindi ko naman kalaban sa politika. Nothing personal. But criticizing me, of course, you can."
Roque, an activist lawyer-turned-lawmaker, has defended his stint as the President's spokesman after being criticized for going soft on Duterte's remarks against women, and the administration's drug war.
"I did not give up my principles," Roque told reporters after filing his certificate of candidacy.
"I served the president because he was given a mandate by the people. I served the people by serving the president."