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As voting nears, more than 150 lawyers stress Roque unfit for international law body

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
As voting nears, more than 150 lawyers stress Roque unfit for international law body
This undated photo shows presidential spokesperson Harry Roque conducting a press conference.
Office of the Presidential Spokesperson Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:23 p.m.) — Less than a week before elections to the panel, more than 150 lawyers raised their objection to the nomination of presidential spokesperson Harry Roque to the International Law Commission.

A total of 152 lawyers wrote to nearly 200 Permanent Missions and Member States at the United Nations General Assembly to register their "vehement objection" to Roque’s candidacy for the international law panel.

Among the notable signatories of the letter is detained Sen, Leila de Lima, a fierce critic of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The lawyers noted that Roque has defended and justified his principal Duterte, who is now under investigation by the International Criminal Court for allegations of crimes against humanity over the bloody "war on drugs." 

They said that "as a lawyer, [Roque] is supposed to be a purveyor of facts and the truth and should uphold the administration of justice, a role he has sacrificed in exchange for his blind loyalty to a strongman president." They said they fear that Roque will bring that "blind loyalty" to the ILC. 

The UN General Assembly could elect Roque to the ILC as one of eight representatives from Asia-Pacific states to sit for five years beginning Jan. 1, 2023.

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 election of the ILC is set on November 12.

Undermining international mechanisms

The lawyers said of the president's spokesman: "Quite incongruous for a professed international law expert, he has openly undermined international mechanisms on accountability like the [International Criminal Court], the UN Human Rights Council, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights."

"As fellow lawyers, we are scandalized by his spins and reinvention of basic legal principles and concepts in his zealousness to repackage President Duterte’s pronouncements of questionable legal and constitutional bases," they added.

They also noted that Roque has "rationalized extrajuidicial killings" and "tolerated weaponization of the law against activists, dissenters and the opposition." 

They also accused the former human rights lawyer of red-tagging those who sought to oppose his nomination.

Among the signatories of this letter to the ILC are former law deans Pacifico Agabin and JV Bautista, former Solicitor General Joel Cadiz, former Reps. Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna) and Erin Tañada (Quezon City) and former Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Ade Fajardo.

Reps. Edcel Lagman (Albay) and Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna), National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia and law professor Howard Calleja also signed the letter.

The Free Legal Assistance Group also sent at least two letters to the ILC, expressing their objection to Roque’s nomination to sit in the panel. Roque’s nomination also earned objection from the University of the Philippines, Diliman where he obtained his law degree and taught constitutional law and public international law for 15 years.

HARRY ROQUE

INTERNATIONAL LAW COMMISSION

UNITED NATIONS

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