Roque says objectors ‘implicitly’ acknowledged he deserves ILC

Roque says objectors ‘implicitly’ acknowledged he deserves ILC

MANILA – Despite opposition by certain quarters to his nomination to the International Law Commission (ILC), Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday said he deserves a seat at the United Nations (UN) expert panel.

In a press statement, Roque enumerated several reasons why he should be part of the ILC.

Roque said over 150 Filipino lawyers who were urging the UN member-states to reject his ILC nomination “invented or recycled various arguments against my candidacy.”

He stressed that on contrary, the joint statement of the group of Filipino lawyers opposing his ILC bid “actually recognizes why [he deserves] to be a member of the Commission.”

“First, they level the charge that I have acted as the spokesman of the Philippine President [Rodrigo Duterte] and have uttered statements consistent with the requirements of my job. In reply I say, yes, I am doing my job as a public servant of my country and as the spokesman of its democratically-elected President,” Roque said.

Roque was referring to the remarks of around 152 lawyers that he “has unbelievably defended and justified President Duterte’s pronouncements enabling extrajudicial killings, attacks on the rule of law and due process and his unacceptable positions on human rights, justice, pandemic responses, and good governance.”

He was also accused of sacrificing his role as “purveyor of facts and the truth” as a lawyer, “in exchange for his blind loyalty to a strongman president.”

Roque said he was not denying their claim, adding that he is merely fulfilling his mandate as Duterte’s spokesperson “because [he serves the] country and [obeys] the law.”

“A public servant, such as a diplomat, lawyer, administrator, or spokesman, does not pick and choose what policies he will implement. Policies are made by the people and their elected leaders, and a public servant follows them to the extent permitted by law. Otherwise, democracy and public order would be impossible,” he said.

Roque also addressed the issue raised by the Filipino lawyers that he is working for Duterte who is currently facing an investigation conducted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity associated with the government’s anti-narcotics drive.

While Duterte is facing accusations before the ICC, he still has “the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense” and the right to “a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law,” Roque said.

“In reply I say, yes, the President is facing accusations. I also reiterate the principle I have long upheld in my decades-long service as a human rights advocate and lawyer: that every human being has human rights,” he said. “Neither I nor my objectors may lawfully deny those rights to anyone, even to leaders they dislike.”

Roque also responded to the claim that he is “spinning and reinventing” the basic legal principles and concepts “in his zealousness to repackage Duterte’s pronouncements of questionable legal and constitutional bases.”

“They accuse me of undermining international mechanisms for accountability and resolution of conflicts, and of ‘spinning’ legal concepts in the process of doing my job. In reply, I say they are wrong. Throughout my career as a lawyer and human rights advocate, I have resolutely obeyed all institutions and rules for legal accountability,” he said.

As a public servant, Roque said he is expressing the government’s views, “in accordance with domestic and international law.”

Roque said he has no intention to undermine rules and institutions and stressed that he is merely following the law.

“I know the laws that must be codified, the gaps where lex ferenda (the law as it exists) is evolved, the gray areas that are being clarified, and the competing interpretations of different legal traditions that should be reconciled. I also understand the political factors that both limit law and are shaped by law,” he said.

Roque said those opposing his nomination to ILC “have also recognized that I have done my job as a lawyer and a public servant in a democratic country well.”

“For this, I am grateful,” Roque said. “By leveling what they think are accusations, my objectors have implicitly acknowledged that I deserve to be part of the International Law Commission and its task of codifying and progressively developing international law.”

Roque added that his candidacy for ILC is based on his “broad expertise and experience as a lawyer, an activist, a teacher, a politician and as a public servant.”

He also ensured that he could bring to emerging issues of international law a “perspective that is principled and practical.”

The ILC election is scheduled for Nov. 12.

Roque is among the 11 nominees from the Asia-Pacific region to the ILC. Only eight candidates will be picked from the Asia-Pacific States bracket. (PNA)

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