MANILA – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday lashed out at Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Roberto Cadiz for saying that human rights and the rule of law are being mocked by a lawyer who is “aided and abetted by other lawyers.”
Cadiz, in a speech in Pasig City on Monday, did not specify who these lawyers are but went on to cite killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and the Chief Executive’s statements that seem to “advocate extrajudicial killings.”
“I’d like to challenge Commissioner Cadiz, name names. Who is the lawyer who he alleges to be making a mockery out of the rule of law and human rights? And who are the lawyers assisting this main lawyer whom he says is mocking human rights and the rule of law?” Roque said of Cadiz’s comments.
“I take it Commissioner Cadiz has claimed the monopoly for upholding the rule of law and human rights,” he added.
Roque did not address Cadiz’s comments on the government’s much-criticized war on drugs.
He instead accused the CHR of turning a blind eye on the atrocities committed by the Maute terrorist group against Marawi City residents during the five-month siege.
Roque, a lawyer who has represented human rights victims, added it is wrong for the CHR to claim that its primary mandate is to watch out for abuses committed by state actors.
“So far, I’ve not heard any investigation conducted by the CHR on the atrocities committed by the Mautes,” he said.
“It is always atrocities allegedly committed by state agents ‘no. And their position has been consistent, [their] role is to document abuses of human rights committed by state agents, which is wrong, because international humanitarian law punishes everyone, even non-state actors," said Roque.
“If you look at the case law of the International Criminal Court, majority of the accused are non-state actors… I’m taking up the cudgels for those who unfortunately... whose rights unfortunately are not being espoused by the CHR,” he added.
The presidential spokesperson said the Duterte administration will no longer wait for the CHR to cooperate in the investigation into the atrocities committed by the Islamic State-inspired terrorists “because, clearly, they have other priorities.”
The President often slams the CHR for criticizing his war on drugs, which human rights groups claim have left at least 13,000 people dead.
Police figures meanwhile estimate the number of deaths in legitimate police operations at 3,800, all of whom are suspects who put up violent resistance.
The administration has asserted that it does not sanction summary killings nor condone police abuses.
Despite criticism against his campaign, Duterte continues to enjoy high popularity ratings based on the latest surveys of major pollsters.
During Monday’s press conference, Cadiz had said Duterte has been “very successful in creating the narrative that human rights is an obstacle to his anti-drug campaign.”
“We see that those who seek to uphold the rule of law are subjected to attacks, including the institutions they represent,” Cadiz said.
“Strange as it seems, a false dichotomy between human rights and the rule of law on the one hand, and good governance on the other has been successfully established in the minds of many of our people,” he added.
Cadiz also lamented the seeming persecution of political personalities deemed unfriendly towards the President, such as detained Sen. Leila de Lima, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who is currently facing impeachment proceedings, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, against whom Duterte has many times lashed out.
Amid what he called the prevalence of “false narratives” under the Duterte government, Cadiz called on human rights defenders “to be brave in speaking truth to power; to go beyond legalese or legal gobbledygook; to realize the relevance of the legal profession, rather than rationalize its limitations.”
“Amidst all these, we cannot equivocate. We have to stand behind truth, and not behind power,” he said.
“We cannot be shaken by the frenzy of the mob, bidding what is wrong, nor by a strongman’s threatening countenance.”