MANILA (UPDATE)—Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday hit back at officials of the University of the Philippines Diliman for objecting to his nomination to a United Nations advisory body.
In a statement, Roque said he possesses the qualifications to be considered for a seat in the International Law Commission.
"My curriculum vitae speaks for itself regarding my credentials in the field of public international law," he said.
While he respects the right of the UP Diliman Executive Committee to give their opinion, Roque denounced it as an attempt to "ignore and erase" his accomplishments due to difference in political views.
"I respect the right of the Committee and its members to proffer their opinion on my candidacy and I understand that my actions, especially in accepting a cabinet post as Spokesperson to the President will not please everyone," he said.
"However, 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."
UP officials opposed Roque's nomination in the ILC, saying the Cabinet member "has 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."
The UP Diliman Executive Committee is composed of the chancellor, vice chancellors, deans and directors of the colleges and schools, university registrar, and 3 members-at-large elected by the university council.
Roque is gunning to be among 8 Asia-Pacific nationals to be part of the 34-member ILC. Eleven individuals, including Roque, are nominated. The period for nomination closed in June.
ILC is an advisory body to the United Nations whose mandate is to "initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of... encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification.”
In the statement, Roque rejected claims that he had a poor track record of defending human rights and the rule of law.
"I wish to challenge this assessment because it is untrue," he said.
Roque said he served as counsel for 19 journalists murdered in the Ampatuan massacre, the fishermen in the Panatag Shoal, the comfort women of World War II and the families of Darius Evangelista and Jennifer Laude.
"In all these cases, I battled powerful interests in order to ensure that proper remedies were availed of, the rule of law was upheld and justice was served," he added.
Roque also described as "disheartening" that his nomination to the UN advisory body had become "politicized".
"Despite the UP Executive Committee best efforts in belittling my track record in human rights and ignoring altogether my credentials in field of public international law, which is what is relevant to the mandate of the International Law Commission, I wish to assure my former colleagues in UP that my commitment to human rights and the rule of law has not wavered," he said.
An organization of human rights lawyers also wanted Roque remove from consideration for a seat in the commission.
The Free Legal Assistance Group has said Roque's "cavalier disregard of the effects of domestic violations of human rights," among others, make him "ill-suited" for the post.
Roque confirmed Monday he flew to New York for his nomination in the ILC.
In the curriculum vitae he submitted in the ILC, he detailed his educational and professional experiences as well as his awards and citations. It includes his teaching years at the UP College of Law.