MANILA—The Philippines’ human rights chief on Wednesday slammed Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque for claiming that a 2008 United Nations report had cleared President Rodrigo Duterte of the rampant killings of suspect criminals while he was the mayor of Davao City.
"Mukhang si Harry Roque, malayo na ang narating niya sa usapin ng ilusyon at haka-haka," human rights commission chairman Jose Luis Martin Gascon told ABS-CBN News.
"Hindi ko maintindihan paanong kaya ni Spokesperson Harry Roque, bilang isang abugado, na magsinungaling sa publiko nang ganyan na lang," he added, noting that Roque was among the human rights lawyers that helped the UN "expose" extrajudicial killings in the country at that time.
The report by UN rapporteur Philip Alston confirmed the existence of the Davao Death Squad whose operation, it said, was "commonplace."
Alston described as "frankly untenable" Duterte’s claim that his public statements against criminals would not affect the conduct of police because they supposedly "know the law."
The UN investigator cited the former mayor’s warning that he would make Davao City "dangerous" and "not a very safe place" for criminals.
The report noted that Duterte "dominates the city so thoroughly as to stamp out whole genres of crime, yet he remains powerless in the face of hundreds of murders committed by men without masks in view of witnesses."
Reacting to a BBC report, Roque on Tuesday insisted that Alston’s conclusion referred to "administrative liability for failure to investigate perhaps."
Gascon likened Roque to Adolf Hitler’s propagandist Joseph Goebbels, who promoted the idea of repeating a lie too often until it became the truth during Nazi Germany.
"But I have to remind Mr. Roque that a lie said that many times remains a lie," Gascon said.