MANILA (UPDATE) - Former Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella has been appointed as undersecretary at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Appointment papers released by Malacañang on Thursday showed Abella was appointed to the DFA last October 27, the same day President Rodrigo Duterte named Harry Roque as his new spokesperson.
Abella told reporters that he would handle DFA's strategic communications unit.
Abella, a pastor who served as Duterte’s spokesperson for over a year, has been known for his calm demeanor opposite that of his principal’s. He had been instrumental in softening the impact of some of the President's controversial statements.
The President has not made public his reason for replacing Abella, saying it was a “personal decision."
Opposition lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, meanwhile, assailed Roque's appointment as concurrent presidential adviser on human rights, saying the post is a duplication of another office's functions.
"Roque's designation duplicated and overlapped with the duties and functions of the Presidential Human Rights Committee, which is the 'primary advisory body to the President in effectively addressing all human rights concerns/issues in the country,' Lagman said in a statement.
Lagman said he believes Roque's appointment "is to apparently deodorize the Duterte administration's unabated violation of human rights and the President's repeated verbal assaults against critics of his dismal human rights record."
"After Roque's human rights advocacy became questionable and suspect when he accepted the role as the President's mouthpiece, he may become part of the problem, not of the solution, as he is obligated to defend Duterte's infractions," he added.
Roque has said he intends to pursue his human rights advocacy in joining the Duterte administration, which has drawn criticism over alleged abuses in the war on drugs.
The administration has repeatedly asserted it does not sanction summary killings nor condone police abuses. --With reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News