A tough-talking ex-human rights lawyer has been named Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's new spokesman, replacing a former pastor who had been one of the most vocal defenders of his deadly drug war.
Duterte, whose narcotics crackdown has killed thousands of people and drawn international criticism, said he would appoint congressman and former university law professor Harry Roque as his spokesman.
Roque takes the place of Ernesto Abella, who has often downplayed Duterte's profanity-laced speeches and controversial remarks as “rhetoric” or “hyperbole” and has tempered the president's pronouncements.
Duterte did not give a reason for replacing Abella, but said Roque was the right person for the job.
“To get your message clear, I said Harry would fit the (post) because we both have naughty mouths,” the president said during Roque's birthday celebration on Friday night.
The announcement came weeks after the president suffered his first major drop in popularity, according to an independent pollster, following the deaths of two Manila teenagers in his anti-crime crackdown.
However subsequent surveys by other polling agencies found that Duterte and his drug war remained largely popular.