MANILA – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday accused his alma mater of not wanting him to succeed after the University of the Philippines Diliman Executive Committee opposed his nomination to the the International Law Commission.
Roque said he was no longer surprised by UP's opposition to his nomination to the international legal body.
“Because I know them. I know their nature. They don’t wish anyone else to succeed. So I just let them be,” he said in an ANC interview.
The UP Diliman Executive Committee last week said Roque "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."
"Therefore, his inclusion in the Commission would not serve its purposes but instead diminish the reputation of the body," they said.
Roque, however, noted that the mandate of the executive committee of both Diliman and UPIS has nothing to do "with the nature of what they attempted to achieve."
“Degrees are granted by the Board of Regents and if it is therefore an issue of whether or not you comply academic requirements, then it is the Board of Regents,” he explained.
“The Executive Committee has to do with management, has nothing to do with assessing individual capacity to any post so I just, you know, let them be,” he said.
Aside from UP, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), an organization of human rights lawyers, also objected to Roque's nomination.
FLAG said Roque's "disregard of the effects of domestic violations of human rights," among others, make him "ill-suited" for the job.
Bloggers and social media personalities have also written to the United Nations to oppose Roque's nomination to the ILC, saying he is not qualified for the job.
Filipino American activists in New York have also opposed his nomination.
Roque said statements accusing him of turning his back on human rights when he joined President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration are nor fair.
“Certainly not. That’s their problem. When I, in fact, became a member of Congress, and I asked for the certification of urgency from President Duterte, I was able to make policy out of my human rights advocacy,” he said.
“I authored universal healthcare, free right to life, right to health for everyone, free lunch for those who are malnourished, as far as the children are concerned the rights of the child, free irrigation, free WiFi, I have done so much more in promoting fundamental human rights compared to those who have opted to stay in the parliaments of the street.”
Roque also said he accepted the position of Palace spokesperson “largely” because of his gratefulness to Duterte for certifying his bills as urgent.
“My decision to become spokesperson is largely because of a sense of gratefulness that this president certified as urgent all my priority bills.”
“So whatever happens, they criticize the president for being inconsistent with human rights well I have news for you. Had he not certified universal healthcare, we wouldn’t have free vaccines today. And tell me, is that contrary to human rights? Certainly not.”
PAID OUT OF POCKET
In the interview, Roque said he paid for his own expenses when he went to New York for his nomination to be a member of the ILC.
“Thus far I charged all my expenses to my personal credit card,” he said.
Roque said he spent his time in New York meeting state parties and talking about his credentials in public international law.
“I met with state parties basically about the International Law Commission and our credentials as an expert in the field of public international law.”
He said it is “standard operating procedure” that state parties want to meet nominees for positions in United Nations advisory bodies.
Roque confirmed last week that he was in the United States for his nomination to the ILC.
"Narito po tayo ngayon sa New York dahil pipili po ng 34 na mga miyembro ng ILC ang mga miyembro ng United Nations," Roque said in an online press briefing.
(We are here in New York because the UN will choose 34 members of the ILC.)
"Hindi po ito full time job, wala po itong sweldo. Mayroon lang pong pagpupulong na gagawin kung hindi po ako nagkakamali ay ilang linggo kada taon. Wala pong sweldo," he said.
In an interview on ANC’s “Rundown”, Roque further clarified if chosen, he will be serving the ILC in an individual capacity.
“The International Law Commission is composed of individual experts who serve in their individual capacity. Now what makes the state’s role relevant is although it is an expert position you have to be nominated by a state. In other words, without a state nomination you will not be considered,” he said.
“But the selection process itself as well as the discharge of the functions is an individual activity and all members of the commission serve in the individual capacity and not as state agents,” he explained.
Roque stressed that he continued to do his job as Palace spokesperson even while he was in New York.
“I did not stop discharging my functions as a spokesperson. I did not go on leave, but as I said I’m standing as an individual expert and therefore I met with state parties in my individual capacity.”
Asked on how his bid for a spot in the ILC will affect his possible Senate run in the Philippines, Roque said, “I’m not yet running for the Senate. I’m exploring options, we have until October 8.”
--ANC, 20 September 2021