Protesters rally vs Roque in New York on ILC nomination; spox condemns act

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 30 2021 10:30 AM | Updated as of Oct 30 2021 05:53 PM

Members of Bayan USA went to the upscale Manhattan eatery Aretsky’s Patroon where they chanted
Members of Bayan USA went to the upscale Manhattan eatery Aretsky’s Patroon where they chanted "Roque out of ILC" and "no justice, no peace, stop the killings in the Philippines." Screen grab from Bayan USA video

MANILA (UPDATE)— Several protesters held a rally at a restaurant in New York City Friday night (Saturday morning in Manila) to oppose Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque's nomination to the International Law Commission (ILC) during a private cocktail party.

ILC is an advisory body to the United Nations.

Members of Bayan USA and allied organizations went to the upscale Manhattan eatery Aretsky’s Patroon where they chanted "Roque out of ILC!" and "No justice, no peace, stop the killings in the Philippines!" 

 

Guards failed to stop them from entering the reception, but they were immediately sent away, leading to a raucous, as seen in a video shared by Bayan USA. 

"We are here because there is a war criminal in this restaurant... he is committing crimes against the Filipino people and we cannot rest until this is addressed," one protester said.

Roque condemned the act in a statement, claiming some restaurant staff were injured. 

"We deplore the effort of militant groups to deliberately cause harm to innocent people in their attempt to disrupt a private reception we were tendering for representatives of several foreign missions in New York," Roque said. 

"The militant groups were not content to peacefully rally outside the restaurant, they charged upstairs, in the process injuring two elderly waiters, and causing damage to property," he added. 

 'LAVISH' COCKTAIL PARTY

In a statement, Bayan USA said Roque's cocktail party at Aretsky’s Patroon could cost "at least 1 million," describing it as "lavish" while many Filipinos go hungry amid the pandemic. 

They added that the party was in honor of Roque's nomination to the ILC, not for the supposed diplomats that he said he was hosting in the city. 

"The event did not host other international missions as Roque falsely claims. The . . . dinner [was to] give him an opportunity to wine and dine and lobby his seat in the ILC," the statement read. 

Three of the protesters were also supposedly injured during the protest. They said it was Roque's security detail who became "aggressive." 

"There was no 'storming' into the restaurant and no damage to property. The staff were also treated respectfully. Roque's security staff . . . accosted the protesters who were merely walking to the reception area," they said. 

"His security staff shoved and pushed protesters violently into the narrow passageway."

ABS-CBN News is seeking Roque's response regarding the cost of the cocktail party. 

Roque, a lawyer formerly outspoken on human rights abuses before Duterte's time, 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 sink due to global warming.

Roque's nomination has been met by vehement opposition, with critics citing what they described as his dismal track record on the rule of law. 

Officials from the University of the Philippines, Roque's alma mater where he also taught law, opposed the official's nomination to 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."

In mid-September, the Free Legal Assistance Group said Roque's "cavalier disregard of the effects of domestic violations of human rights," among others, make him "ill-suited" for the post.

— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

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