MANILA – Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said he could not “abandon” President Rodrigo Duterte despite sectors opposing his nomination in the International Law Commission (ILC).
The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman Executive Committee have both opposed Roque's nomination, citing his poor track record of promoting, defending and fulfilling human rights and the rule of law.
Roque, a former UP faculty member, reiterated that he respects the opinion of sectors criticizing his nomination but insisted that disagreeing over differing political beliefs is not ���justified”.
“Linawin natin, ang pagtututol nila ay dahil ayaw nila yung desisyon kong maging tagapagsalita ng Presidente. Pero nasa akin na po 'yun (Let’s make this clear, they are opposing my nomination because they disagree with my decision to accept the Cabinet post as Duterte’s spokesperson. But it’s up to me),” he said in a Palace press briefing.
He said it was Duterte who certified as urgent laws which he co-authored in Congress such as the Universal Health Care Law, the Free Irrigation Service Act for small-scale farmers, Free Wi-Fi for All, and the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act.
“Hindi ko naman pupuwedeng talikuran ang isang Presidente na siyang nag-certify as urgent ng aking mga panukalang batas (I cannot abandon a President who certified as urgent laws I co-authored),” he added.
Roque again denied that he had a poor track record of promoting human rights, stressing that he spent more than 30 years of his career doing so by representing the families of journalists killed in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre and the families of alleged torture victim Darius Evangelista and transgender woman Jennifer Laude.
Roque said he only stopped taking on high-profile cases after he accepted the offer to become part of Duterte’s Cabinet.
"Hindi po totoo na masama po ang record natin bilang isang human rights defender dahil mahigit tatlumpung taon po tayo nanindigan para sa karapatang pantao. Natigil po 'yan siyempre po nung tayo po'y napunta sa gobyerno (It’s not true that I have a poor record as a human rights defender because I have spent over 30 years fighting for human rights. It only stopped when I entered government),” he said.
He also insisted that the ILC is “different” from the International Criminal Court (ICC) that has formally ordered an investigation in the administration's drug war and killings by the so-called Davao Death Squad in Davao City.
“Ang International Law Commission ay hindi po International Criminal Court. Hindi po 'yan human rights body. 'Yan po ay isang body ng mga eksperto sa international law para po mag-codify ng customary international law at para po magkaroon ng progressive development of international law (The International Law Commission is not the International Criminal Court. It is not a human rights body. That is a body of experts in international law that codifies customary international law to have a progressive development of international law),” he added.
Roque is currently in New York City for the selection of members of the ILC.
He is among the 11 candidates from the Asia-Pacific region. Only eight seats are allotted for the Asia-Pacific States bracket in the UN body.
If he wins a seat in ILC, Roque said he would advocate for Covid-19 vaccine equity and retention of sovereignty on islands that sank due to climate change to prevent tension between nations. (PNA)