150 more lawyers oppose Roque’s bid to join International Law Commission ahead of vote

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 09 2021 02:46 AM

The lawyers hit out at Roque for defending and justifying President Duterte’s statements “enabling extrajudicial killings”, among others. Joey Dalumpines, Presidential Photos/file
The lawyers hit out at Roque for defending and justifying President Duterte’s statements “enabling extrajudicial killings”, among others. Joey Dalumpines, Presidential Photos/file

MANILA — More than 150 Filipino lawyers have added their voice to calls rejecting presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s bid to join the International Law Commission, ahead of the vote scheduled on Friday, November 12.

In a letter sent Monday to more than 190 United Nations member-states, lawyers hit Roque for defending and justifying President Duterte’s statements “enabling extrajudicial killings, attacks on the rule of law and due process and on his unacceptable positions on human rights, justice, pandemic responses and good governance.”

Those statements are part of a probe by the International Criminal Court on the killings in the Philippines connected with Duterte’ bloody war on drugs.

“Lamentably, Harry has rationalized extrajudicial killings and tolerated the weaponization of the law against activists, dissenters and the opposition,” they said.

“As fellow lawyers, we are scandalized by his spins and reinvention of basic legal principles and concepts in his zealousness to repackage President Duterte’s pronouncements of questionable legal and constitutional bases,” they added.

The lawyers include deans of law schools, law professors, heads of bar associations, incumbent and former government officials, former government lawyers, private practitiioners, human rights lawyers, public interest lawyers, labor lawyers and international lawyers, according to the endorsement letter signed by lawyer Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).

Among the notable personalities in the list of 152 lawyers who signed the petition as of 3:15pm Monday are detained Sen. Leila de Lima, former Sen. Wigberto Tañada, Reps. Edcel Lagman and Carlos Zarate, former Rep. Neri Colmenares, former Solicitor General Joel Cadiz, Dean Pacifico Agabin and Dean JV Bautista.

NUPL itself had filed its own opposition against Roque’s election, as well as other lawyers’ group like the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).

Some of those who signed Monday’s statement also belong to the 2 organizations but opted to sign in their individual capacity.

They add to the growing number of groups and individuals who oppose Roque’s election to the ILC, an advisory body to the United Nations tasked to develop international law.

Among them are officials from Roque’s alma mater from the University of the Philippines Diliman, where he obtained his law degree, and the UP Integrated School, where he finished high school.

Over 220 groups and almost 20,000 individuals also signed an online petition put up by rights coalition iDefend, aside from various bloggers and social media personalities.

Roque had dismissed opposition to his bid as a product of people from UP not wanting him to succeed.

He also insisted that the only requirement for inclusion in the 34-member body is competence. 

In their letter Monday, the lawyers criticized Roque’s claim of expertise given his previous statements against UN agencies.

“Quite incongruous for a professed international law expert, he has openly undermined international mechanisms on accountability like the ICC, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Harry has also publicly enfeebled platforms for resolutions of conflicts like the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” they said.

Roque was recently in New York where his visit to an upscale restaurant was met with a protest action.

He condemned the protest and denied spending P1 million for a cocktail party.

He said he found the resolve to run for the Senate as a result of the incident at the restaurant. 

Roque, who was nominated by the Philippine government to the ILC, went to New York on an official visit, during UN international law week. 

He was also there in September for his ILC bid, although he stressed that at that time, he personally spent for his expenses. 

He earlier explained serving in the ILC is on a personal capacity and he won’t be receiving any salary.