Roque apologizes for snarling at doctors

By: Leila B. Salaverria, Marlon Ramos, Patricia Denise Chiu - Philippine Daily Inquirer | September 11,2021 - 10:15 AM

Rude, uncalled for, unbecoming of a government official.

It was the turn of President Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque to receive a tongue-lashing from the medical community and some lawmakers after he castigated doctors in a meeting for opposing the plan to revert Metro Manila to the less restrictive general community quarantine (GCQ) despite the record-high number of COVID-19 cases.

‘Listen to the hungry’

Roque drew flak after a video surfaced showing him berating the doctors during a meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Tuesday. A copy of the video was obtained by the Inquirer on Thursday.

It has since gone viral after being posted on, and also trended on Twitter Philippines, with the topic “Harry Roque” tweeted more than 12,800 times early on Friday.

Chastised on social media, Roque apologized for causing offense with his “manner,” but stood by his statements objecting to the medical experts’ proposal. He said he made those statements on behalf of the people going hungry due to tight quarantine restrictions.

He said he was “just human” and admitted being “emotional” during the meeting where officials discussed the new quarantine guidelines for Metro Manila.

“Those who were offended by the manner, I apologize if you were offended by the manner. But the message remains clear. We also need to listen to the hungry,” he said at a press briefing.

Roque said the doctors’ statements during the meeting made it appear as though only medical experts were concerned about Filipinos dying from COVID-19.

“I reacted because it appeared that if you were not in favor of a hard [enhanced community quarantine] or lockdown, it’s as if you want Filipinos to die. That is not the case. Nobody wants Filipinos to die. We are just thinking of ways how to keep them alive while allowing them to earn a living,” he said.

Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, who was the subject of Roque’s outburst, said the Palace official should apologize for his behavior not just to her but to all health-care workers in the country.

“He said so many things that were uncalled for. We were there with the intent of helping [the] government win this pandemic, [but] he already started shouting, so I think everybody, it looked like they were also surprised with the reaction,” Limpin said.

She said she was shocked and surprised by the spokesperson’s reaction to the plea she addressed to the IATF.

Dr. Leni Jara, of the Solidarity of Health Advocates and Personnel for a Unified Plan to Defeat COVID-19 (Shape Up), also demanded a Roque apology to the front-liners.

‘We deserve better’

“Bastos mo! (You’re rude!),’’ she said in an online forum on Friday. “Can you please stop! That’s too much, you show no respect to the workers and those who are saving the lives of patients.’’

“You have NOTHING good to say to the Filipinos,” Dr. Tony Leachon, a former IATF adviser, said in a social media post. “We deserve better leaders!”

Limpin and epidemiologist Dr. Antonio Dans represented the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) during the IATF meeting. It was the same group that called for a “time-out”—a new round of tougher quarantine restrictions—in August last year when hospitals were overwhelmed by a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Limpin said they asked that they be allowed to join the meeting because they wanted to make some suggestions.

“We believe the plan [for a return to GCQ] will further aggravate the already overwhelmed health-care system, which is on the brink of collapse,” Limpin told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

But Limpin said HPAAC was well aware not just of the health ramifications of an extended lockdown, but also its financial impact especially on the poor.

Limpin said their suggestions that were meant to help the government fell to the wayside the moment Roque started raising his voice after she and Dans made a presentation.

‘Do rage management’

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen also weighed in on the issue, telling Roque—once his fellow professor at the University of the Philippines’ College of Law—that “the doctors mean well. They do care.”

“Man up, apologize well (no conditions), do rage management (like many of us). That’s better leadership,” Leonen said. —With a report from John Eric Mendoza,

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