'Simply because our politics do not align': Roque hits UP's opposition to ILC nomination

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
'Simply because our politics do not align': Roque hits UP's opposition to ILC nomination
This 2018 shows presidential spokesperson Harry Roque supporting the University of the Philippines in the UAAP
Facebook / Harry Roque

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Wednesday disputed the claim of the executive committee of his alma mater University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman that he has a "very poor track record" of defending human rights and decried the supposed politicizing of his nomination to the International Law Commission (ILC).

The Duterte administration has nominated Roque to a seat in the ILC, a body that recommends policies to the United Nations.

Various lawyers' groups are vigorously against the nomination, accusing Roque of demonstrating contempt for the rule of law and of defending an administration linked to human rights violations.

The latest institution to oppose Roque's nomination is the UP Diliman executive committee, which cited the Palace spokesman's supposed "very poor track record of defending and fulfilling human rights and the rule of law." According to the committee, Roque's inclusion in the ILC  "would not serve its purposes but instead diminish the reputation of the body."

Roque, a former faculty member of the UP College of Law, said he respects the right of the committee to express its views on his candidacy but claimed that its reason for objecting to his nomination was "flimsy."

"The flimsy justification made to object to my nomination and election to the International Law Commission 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," Roque said in a statement.

"It is unfortunate that some members of the UP academe would conveniently ignore and erase over thirty years of hard work and concrete accomplishments simply because our politics do not align. It is very disheartening to have my nomination to the International Law Commission politicized, especially considering that the ILC itself is not a political body," he added.  

Roque noted that the ILC is an expert group of people who have the necessary credentials and experience in public international law needed to codify and develop customary international law.

"My curriculum vitae speaks for itself regarding my credentials in the field of public international law," he added.

Roque said the UP Diliman executive committee's assessment that he has a poor human rights track record is "untrue," citing his more than 30 years of experience as an "advocate of human rights."

According to Roque, he spent most of his professional life as a member of civil society and as a public interest lawyer representing persons and sectors who needed to be championed. He went on to enumerate groups and sectors that he represented in courts including the families of 19 victims of the Maguindanao massacre, the Panatag Shoal fishermen, comfort women, and the families of alleged torture victim Darius Evangelista and slain transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude.

"In all these cases, I battled powerful interests in order to ensure that proper remedies were availed of, the rule of law was upheld and justice was served," Roque said.

Roque also expressed belief that he has "greatly furthered the human rights" of Filipinos by pushing for measures like the Universal Health Care Law, Free Irrigation Service Act and the HIV policy law.  

"All of these laws which I co-authored and whose passage I passionately lobbied for, grant our countrymen much needed economic rights whose fruits we are now reaping during this pandemic," he added.

Roque, who has drawn flak for defending President Duterte's controversial war on illegal drugs, claimed that his commitment to human rights has not wavered.

"Given the opportunity to be a member of the ILC, I have declared that I will be advocating for a treaty for vaccine equality among countries and a treaty recognizing as conclusive laws that identify territories of countries and ensuring maritime jurisdictions in the event of a rise in sea level driven by climate change," he added. 

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