A CAREER PIVOT. Harry Roque, a human rights lawyer by profession, has been appointed as spokesperson to President Rodrigo Duterte, accused by international groups of human rights violations. In this Oct. 19, 2016 photo, Roque poses with Duterte as part of the delegation to China. PPD/Toto Lozano

Roque: Police can't define EJKs
(philstar.com) - November 1, 2017 - 2:55am

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday maintained that there is extra-judicial killing in the country, contrary to the earlier claim of the Philippine National Police.

Speaking at CNN Philippines' The Source, Roque said that he believes that the "persistence" of extra-judicial killing, which started from the administration of former President, now-Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has given rise to a culture of impunity in the country.

"There is an accepted definition by the international community and the Supreme Court," the acid-tongued lawyer said, stressing that: "The police will have to accept the fact that they don't make the definitions of extra-judicial killings."

But last October 7, the PNP issued a "corrected" statement that denied the existence of extra-judicial killing in the 6,225 drug-related deaths since the administration started in June 2016.

In the morning of Octover 7, the PNP said that the case of Catanduanes-based journalist Larry Que was recognized was extra-judicial killing, but in the afternoon, PNP Spokesperon Chief Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said: "We don't have cases considered as EJK as of now, so I stand corrected."

In a 2008 ruling, the Supreme Court (SC) defined EJKs as “killings committed without due process of law, i.e., without legal safeguards or judicial proceedings.” A 2009 SC ruling also recognized that “extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, by their nature and purpose, constitute State or private party violation of the constitutional rights of individuals to life, liberty and security.”

READ: Cayetano uses restrictive definition of EJK, experts say

Roque, who first gained prominence as human rights lawyer, also cited the report of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston that hit Arroyo's administration for the rise of extrajudicial executions of leftist activists in the country.

Current UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard has been in the receiving end of President Rodrigo Duterte's tirades since last year, due to their opposing views on drug war.

The spokesperson is among the founder of Center for International Law Manila (CenteLaw) that has, to date, filed two petitions challenging the government's bloody drug war before the Supreme Court. He has also represented the the family of the slain transgender Jennifer Laude and victims of the Ampatuan Massacre.

Drug war

His recent appointment to the Malacañang was met with skepticism by some of his colleagues at the profession, noting that his vision runs contrary to this administration's stance on the ongoing bloody drug war that has claimed thousands of lives.

READ: Tough-talking Harry Roque now Duterte's spokesperson

But Roque said that will approach the issue of the government's bloody drug war in the "legal context."

He said: "It is the obligation of the sovereignty to go after drug traders. It's an exercise of police power."

He added that it may have been his legal background that was considered by President Rodrigo Duterte, also a lawyer and prosecutor, for his appointment.

Roque will hold his first briefing as the presidential spokesperson at the Malacañang tomorrow.

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