MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte was mum on the reason Ernesto Abella was replaced by Kabayan Party-list Representative Harry Roque as his spokesman.
Speaking to reporters at the Davao International Airport before he leaving for Japan on Sunday night, the President only said it was his "personal decision" and refused to explain further.
Asked why he chose Roque as the new presidential spokesman, Duterte said: "He's very competent and able."
"It's in the messaging actually. We cannot speak with the same words altogether but how he would convey the message from me would be most important," he added.
Roque earlier said he too does not know why Abella was replaced. He said he already called Abella, who told him he understands.
"Tinawagan ko naman po siya, hiningan ko ng paumanhin dahil ako din talaga ay wala akong idea na darating itong ganitong oportunidad," he said.
For the first time, Roque moderated the question and answer portion after Duterte's departure speech at the airport. He will also be accompanying the President in his visit to Japan for the first time.
Duterte left for Japan past 9 p.m. and is expected to arrive there early Monday morning. He is expected to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to strengthen the countries bilateral relations.
ROQUE WARNS 'DETRACTORS'
In a video posted by Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson on her social media page Sunday evening, Roque said President Duterte chose him because they talk the same way.
"Sabi ni Presidente, kinuha niya ako dahil ako ay isang abogado. At kasing-anghang ang bibig ko... kung ikukumpara sa kanya, ano. Sabi niya, pareho kaming merong malikot na mga dila," he said.
The former human rights lawyer also warned the "detractors" of Duterte, telling them to think twice before saying lies against the President now that he is the new spokesperson of the Palace.
"'Yung mga walang hiya diyan na mga naninira lamang: Kung dati-rati e hindi kayo nababato bagama't kayo'y nambabato, ngayon po, maghanda na kayo dahil 'pag kayo'y nambato, hindi lang po bato ang itatapon ko sa inyo, hollow blocks," he said.
Roque also slammed former officials who are criticizing his appointment and told them to let the current government officials do their work, saying they already had their chance but failed.
"'Yung mga bumabato sa akin ngayong ganto kaaga pa lang: mamatay kayo sa inggit," he added.