Roque’s high school joins UP objection to his ILC bid
MANILA, Philippines — After the executive committee of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, aired its objection to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s nomination to the International Law Commission (ILC), his high school alma mater followed suit.
The UP Integrated School (UPIS) executive committee on Wednesday said it “concurs”’ with UP Diliman’s opposition to Roque’s bid to be one of the 34 members of the United Nations (UN) advisory body on international law.
The committee is composed of the school’s principal, assistant principals, department heads, administrative officer, and head librarian.
Roque is an alumnus of UPIS Batch 1982 and was a student and law professor in UP Diliman.
In a statement on Tuesday, UP Diliman’s executive committee said: “Atty. Roque has a very poor track record of promoting, defending, and fulfilling human rights obligations especially during the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte which he serves as a Cabinet member.”
“His inclusion in the committee would not serve its purposes but instead diminish the reputation of the body,” said the body, which includes the university chancellor, vice chancellors, deans and directors of the colleges and schools, university registrar, and three members at large elected by the university council.
The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) had also written to the ILC, saying the Palace official “does not possess the qualifications for a seat at the Commission.”
“His public defense of extrajudicial killings, his belittling of the competence and jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and his cavalier disregard of the effects of domestic violations of human rights, among others make him ill-suited for the work of the Commission,” said the group led by its chair, Chel Diokno.
“His pronouncements have been made, alternately, with sneering contempt for the plight of victims or a callous attempt to justify the same with misplaced humor,” it added.
‘30 years of hard work’
Replying to the UP academic bodies, Roque on Wednesday said that while he respected their opinion, he found their reasons for opposing his nomination “flimsy.”
“It is unfortunate that some members of the UP academe would conveniently ignore and erase over 30 years of hard work and concrete accomplishments simply because our politics do not align,” Roque said in a statement from New York, where he is campaigning for the ILC seat.
The election of new ILC members is set for Nov. 12. The commission helps in the formulation of rules and legal norms for adoption by the UN member-states.
“I understand that my actions, especially in accepting a Cabinet post as spokesperson to the president will not please everyone. However, the flimsy justification made to object to my nomination and election to the ILC makes it clear that there are some sectors who will do everything to besmirch my good name, reputation, and integrity simply because I do not subscribe to and share their same political beliefs,” he said.
‘Public interest lawyer’
Roque also disputed the committee members’ claim about his “poor track record” on human rights.
“I wish to challenge this assessment because it is untrue. For over 30 years, I have been an advocate of human rights, having spent most of my professional life as a member of civil society and as a public interest lawyer representing persons and sectors who have needed to be championed,” he said.
As Duterte’s mouthpiece, Roque had traded barbs with critics of the president’s policies, including his soft stance on continued Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea and his policy setting aside the Philippines’ landmark 2016 arbitral tribunal victory against Beijing’s maritime claims.
Roque had also defended the president’s decision to withdraw the country’s membership from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is investigating his brutal war on drugs. Before joining the Duterte administration, Roque was the lead campaigner for Philippine membership in the ICC.
But it was Roque’s recent outburst against doctors during an online meeting on the pandemic response that provided more ammo for his critics.
Among the latest to call out Roque for the meltdown was the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), who came to the defense of medical front-liners whose representatives received a tongue-lashing from Roque during the Zoom meeting.
“We stand on a united front with them, calling on all stakeholders, especially our government, to listen and work with them in ensuring the health of our nation,” the IBP said in a statement on Sept. 14. “We should extend relief and compassion to them instead of unnecessarily compounding their troubles with delayed benefits, supply shortages, and undue and harsh criticisms and outbursts for their reports and recommendations which merely reflect what is actually happening at the hospitals and other healthcare facilities.”
A video obtained by the Inquirer showed Roque lashing out at Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) president Dr. Maricar Limpin, who was to the pandemic response task force to place Metro Manila under hard lockdown since hospitals were still struggling to cope with the surge in COVID-19 cases
After the public backlash, Roque said he apologized if his “manner”’ had offended medical workers, but said he was standing by his statement that more Filipinos would go hungry if the lockdown is extended.
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