Content creators, online personalities oppose Roque's ILC bid too

Content creators, online personalities oppose Roque's ILC bid too
This screengrab from a COVID-19 task force meeting aired on July 31 shows presidential spokesman Harry Roque wearing a face shield over a face mask.
RTV, screengrab

MANILA, Philippines — The Concerned Online Citizens brought online opposition to the presidential spokesperson Harry Roque's nomination to the International Law Commission offline on Thursday night and sent letters to the body and to other representatives to the United Nations to denounce the former human rights lawyer.

Members of the COC, many of whom are also petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act, sent the letters to the ILC and to all permanent missions and permanent observers to the UN. 

"Since his first appointment and in his current reappointment as presidential spokesperson, Mr. Roque has publicly spoken against freedom of expression, press freedom, due process and other fundamental rights guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution and international laws," COC said.

They described Roque, who was also named presidential adviser on human rights in 2017, as a defender of extrajudicial killings and someone who has "transmogrified from a former champion of the [International Criminal Court] into an attack dog against the ICC."

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The government has repeatedly stressed that extrajudicial killings are not a policy and that killings are dealt with through the Philippine justice system. Roque has said that the ICC does not have jurisdiction over the Philippines and that the government will not cooperate with any investigation that the court may launch. 

The ILC was instrumental in the creation of the International Criminal Court as it helped draft the statute that created the tribunal that tries genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. The Philippines ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC in 2011.

"He gaslights victims and families of extrajudicial killings with regularity and with relish," COC also said in its letter.

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The letters were signed by the following bloggers, content creators, artists, influencers and Filipino social media users:

  • Tonyo Cruz
  • Dr. Gia Sison
  • Jover Laurio
  • Thysz Estrada
  • Rob Cham
  • Albert Raqueno
  • Lean Porquia
  • Mark Averilla
  • Jhay Rocas
  • Mark Geronimo
  • Tarantadong Kalbo
  • Dr. Jai Cabajar
  • Chino Singson
  • Sassa Gurl
  • Professional Heckler
  • Aling Marie
  • Mong Palatino
  • Dean Rodel Taton

"We oppose Mr. Roque’s nomination, and ask you to save the ILC from the embarrassment of having someone like Mr. Roque as a member," they said.

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Mounting opposition to Roque nomination

The COC's campaign is just the latest in opposition to Roque's nomination to the body. 

The Executive Committee of UP Diliman, where Roque studied and later taught law, also warned the ILC this week that Roque "has a very poor track record of promoting, defending, and fulfilling human rights and the rule of law."

"His inclusion in the Commission would not serve its purposes," the committee also said, "but instead, diminish the reputation of the body."

The UP Integrated School, where Roque went to high school, said it concurred with the Diliman officials' position.

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In response, Roque said he spent 30 years as a human rights advocate and in public interest law and that objection to his nomination is because of a difference in "political beliefs."

He added that "my commitment to human rights and the rule of law has not wavered" even after he accepted the appointment to be President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson.

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers this week said that while Roque may have the academic and professional background, "he is morally undeserving to be part of this august international legal organ."

The group also scored Roque for how they said he publicly "rationalized extrajudicial killings" in the government's "war on drugs."

The Free Legal Assistance Group, among the first to oppose Roque's nomination, described the president's spokesperson as "a political partisan who has actively demonstrated contempt for the rule of law and, with specific relevance to the Commission, has undermined the supremacy of human rights and international law."

Human rights network iDEFEND has also objected to Roque's potential inclusion in the international body, saying he "lacks the moral and ethical integrity to work in such a prestigious global mechanism and demonstrates questionable qualifications and expertise as an international legal expert."

"Moreover, his record of contemptuous pronouncements against concepts and principles of human rights as well as international treaties such as [UN Convention on the Law of the Sea] and the ICC may stain the reputation of the ILC before the international community," iDEFEND also said in a petition that it said has gained the support of "149 local, regional, national and international organizations" and "13,020 individuals from 69 countries." — Jonathan de Santos 

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