MANILA (UPDATED) - President Rodrigo Duterte has named outgoing Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque as his new spokesperson.
In an interview with radio DZMM early Saturday morning, Roque said he will succeed outgoing Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella on Nov. 6, after accompanying the President in his trip to Japan.
"Inanunsyo lang po ni Presidente ngayon na ako'y itinalagang Presidential spokesperson at ako naman po ay tinanggap ko iyan. Pero ako po ay manunungkulan pagka-landing po namin sa Japan dahil kasama po ako sa delegasyon ni Presidente papuntang Japan," he said.
Duterte announced his decision during Roque’s birthday party Friday evening.
Journalist Ellen Tordesillas earlier reported that Abella will soon be replaced by Roque as Duterte’s spokesperson.
Tordesillas said Duterte was apparently unhappy with how Abella handled the media on the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey results that showed a two-digit decline in his satisfaction and trust ratings as well as the issue of Duterte ordering the expulsion of ambassadors of European countries.
Roque said he has no idea as to why the President removed Abella as his spokesman.
"Wala naman pong binanggit si presidente kanina. Ang sabi lang niya ay si Secretary Abella ay talaga pong pastor. Hindi naman daw po ito simbahan, ang kailangan daw ay yung naiintindihan ang kanyang ibig sabihin at nakaka-anggulo rin, 'yun po ang sabi niya," he said.
Roque said he has since spoken to Abella.
"Tinawagan ko naman po siya, hiningan ko ng paumanhin dahil ako din talaga ay wala akong idea na darating itong ganitong oportunidad. naintindihan naman daw po ni Secretary Abella."
As of this posting, Roque's appointment papers have yet to be released.
He will be traveling to Japan as a member of the President's delegation and as a lawmaker.
Duterte will fly to Japan for a working visit from October 29 to 31 and is set to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss critical issues, including tensions at the Korean Peninsula.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said Duterte will meet with Abe and other top Japanese officials for talks on “matters of mutual interest to both countries,” including economic and security issues.
China Jocson, Abella’s assistant, meanwhile, said earlier that the latter has not yet left his post, amid rumors that he will be replaced soon.
“As of this moment, he is still Presidential Spokesperson and since he is in town, we may… you may hear from him next week. He may still give briefings if he is in town. If he doesn’t push through with the trip, he may still give briefings next week,” Jocson said.
On June 13, 2016, Duterte initially appointed Abella as "one of his designated spokespersons," with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo as his spokesman.
A few days later, Panelo was named as the President's chief legal counsel and Abella fully took on the role of being Duterte's mouthpiece.
Prior to becoming the President's spokesman, Abella said Duterte was instrumental in his rescue when he was kidnapped by bandits for 24 hours in 1996.
“They did not tie me up. I was not blindfolded. Apparently, they were confident that I would not in any way be able to reveal their real identity. They treated me well, but at a certain stage, it looked like they were going to eliminate me,” Abella narrated.
In the 2016 presidential polls, Abella took part in Duterte’s presidential bid by campaigning for the Davao mayor through social media.
Abella, who identifies himself as a social entrepreneur by profession, said some of his Facebook posts about the PDP-Laban standard-bearer went viral, but downplayed possibilities that his social media posts were his ticket to becoming part of the President-elect’s inner circle. --With reports from Dexter Ganibe and Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News