"It is how we conduct ourselves as human beings—or don’t."
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque has not had an easy day since his meltdown during an online meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
As a video of his outburst at two doctors became widely circulated on social media, Roque faced criticism from many sectors and became the subject of ridicule in memes. People highlighted his boorish behavior and his ill treatment of medical professionals. He was further scored for his unapologetic apology.
Perhaps the most stinging backlash of all came from Mr. Roque’s own school, the University of the Philippines, where he studied, taught, and specialized in human rights law in a previous life.
The UP Diliman Executive Committee objected to the nomination of Roque to the International Law Commission, an advisory body to the United Nations, saying he had “a very poor track record of promoting, defending, and fulfilling human rights and the rule of law, especially during the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.”
A lawyers’ group that counts many of Roque’s former colleagues among its members, the Free Legal Assistance Group, added that Roque’s cavalier disregard of the effects of domestic violations of human rights, among others, make him ill-suited for the position he seeks.
But if Roque bristled from this hit from his own community, he masked it with his characteristic glibness and arrogance.
“My curriculum vitae speaks for itself regarding my credentials in the field of public international law,” he said.
“The flimsy justification made to object to my nomination and election to the International Law Commission makes it clear that there are some sectors who will do everything to besmirch my good name, reputation and integrity simply because I do not subscribe to and share their same political beliefs.”
Roque, of course, is entitled to his own beliefs—but the public is not obligated to believe them, or even acknowledge their truth. We have seen so much of this mouthpiece’s actuations in the past months, and his words inspire not comfort, but anger.
This causes us to wonder: What would, ultimately, speak of us when our time of reckoning arrives? This pandemic has led many of us to rethink the way we value success, impact, and legacy. Faced with the prospect of loss and the fragility of life, we believe more strongly that extraneous matters like wealth, power, connections, popularity and titles have little bearing on our person.
What will ultimately speak for us is how we conduct ourselves as human beings—if we are compassionate, fair, honest and are serious about building and maintaining competence to help a larger cause. Then again, dishonesty, entitlement, rudeness and a clear lack of respect for different points of view and for human life speak just as loudly.