Harry Roque confirms being in NY for International Law Commission nomination

Job Manahan and Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 13 2021 01:56 PM

FLAG says presidential spokesman is "unworthy" to be considered

Presidential Spokesperson Herminio
Presidential Spokesperson Herminio "Harry" Roque Jr. shares his remarks to President Rodrigo Duterte during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Arcadia Active Lifestyle Center in Matina, Davao City on Feb. 15, 2021. Joey Dalumpines, Presidential Photo

MANILA - Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday said he is in New York for his nomination to be a member of the International Law Commission (ILC), an advisory body to the United Nations.

"Narito po tayo ngayon sa New York dahil pipili po ng 34 na mga miyembro ng ILC ang mga miyembro ng United Nations," Roque said in a online press briefing.

(We are here in New York because the UN will choose 34 members of the ILC.)

"Hindi po ito full time job, wala po itong sweldo. Mayroon lang pong pagpupulong na gagawin kung hindi po ako nagkakamali ay ilang linggo kada taon. Wala pong sweldo," he said.

(This is not a full time job. It does not have a salary. Members only attend meetings for a couple of weeks yearly, if I'm not mistaken.)

Roque is gunning to be among eight Asia-Pacific nationals to be part of the ILC, who serves for five years. Eleven individuals, including him, are nominated. The period for nomination closed in June.

The ILC's mandate is to "initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose... of encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification."

President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson said he was nominated by the government, and that he has two platforms to present. 

This includes his proposed treaty on equal COVID-19 vaccine access and the need for nations to recognize the permanent presence of states which would possibly be sunk in seawaters due to global warming.

LAWYERS' GROUP OBJECTS

Saying he is unworthy to be considered for the post due to his "lack of integrity and character", the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) objected to Roque’s nomination.

“Mr. Roque does not possess the qualifications for a seat at the Commission. While he has degrees in law and has taught Public International Law, he is a political partisan who has actively demonstrated contempt for the rule of law and, with specific relevance to the Commission, had undermined the supremacy of human rights and international law,” FLAG officers led by national chairperson Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno said in a letter dated Sept. 12.

FLAG wants the ILC to disregard Roque’s nomination and remove him from consideration for a seat in the commission.

Similar letters were also sent to each of the 193 member-states of the UN, who will vote on Roque’s nomination, according to FLAG Metro Manila regional coordinator and former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te. 

The letters were sent to 210 e-mail addresses, Te said.

Attached to the letter are some statements Roque publicly made with respect to extrajudicial killings, Duterte’s sexist jokes, the International Criminal Court probe, red-tagging and military killings.

Among these is a statement justifying Duterte's order to kill alleged communist rebels.

“Dahil may digmaang nangyayari with CPP-NPA, hindi po ipinagbabawal ang pagpatay. Under IHL, tama ang order ng presidente, kill, kill, kill. Alangan naman pong ikaw ang mamatay,” Roque was quoted as saying in a media report during a press briefing in Malacanang in March this year.

(Because there is an ongoing war with the CPP-NPA, killing is not prohibited. Under IHL, the president’s order is correct - kill, kill, kill. You shouldn’t be the one who’s dead.)

These statements, FLAG said, show Roque “used his knowledge of international law to undermine the protections that international law provides under a regime of human rights and the rule of law."

"His motivations for doing so are clearly for political gain as he has not been discreet about his plans to seek elective office," added the group.

“His public defense of extrajudicial killings, his belittling of the competence and jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and his cavalier disregard of the effects of domestic violations of human rights, among others, make him ill-suited for the work of the Commission. His pronouncements have been made, alternately, with sneering contempt for the plight of victims or a callous attempt to justify the same with misplaced humor,” FLAG said in its letter.

“All these demonstrate a patent lack of integrity and character that make him utterly unworthy to even be seriously considered as part of the International Law Commission. He will bring no honor to to the post he seeks, instead he will tarnish the same irreparably.”

ROQUE QUALIFICATIONS

In his 26-page curriculum vitae submitted to the ILC, Roque, 54, detailed his educational and professional experiences as well as his awards and citations.

These include his teaching years at the University of the Philippines College of Law, his advocacy for international law and his year-long stint at the House of Representatives.

He listed some of the 220 bills he filed as part of the lower House, some of which were enacted into law.

Roque also enumerated cases he represented before the Philippines Supreme Court, among which was the petition seeking to compel the transmittal of the signed Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to the Senate for ratification. 

Notably, as Duterte's spokesman, Roque has since said that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines, having withdrawn from the Rome Statute effectively in March 2019. He also continues to insist the country will not cooperate with any potential ICC probe.

Roque also cited more than a thousand TV and radio appearances and his stint as radio host on ABS-CBN's DZMM TeleRadyo.

DZMM, along with other ABS-CBN stations, was shut down under the Duterte administration.

Aside from FLAG, rights coalition iDEFEND has launched an online campaign against Roque’s nomination. 

LEAVING IT UP TO UN MEMBER STATES

"Hahayaan ko na po ang mga estado sa daigdig na magdesisyon kung karapat-dapat po ba ako na mahalal sa ILC. Pero ang kwalipakisayon lang po ay eksperto po sa larangan ng international law," Roque said during his press briefing.

(I will let the states to decide if I am worthy to be elected in the ILC. But the only qualification needed is to be an expert in the field of international law.)

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