By JASMIN C. ESPINAS
MANILA – A group of international lawyers opposed the bid of the Philippine president’s spokesperson to the United Nations International Law Commission, saying it would be a disservice to the victims of human rights violations here.
“The inclusion of Harry Roque, Jr., Duterte’s spokesman, in the UN International Law Commission would be a great disservice to all the victims of human rights violations in the Philippines including the human rights defenders who were murdered, arrested, and red-tagged under the regime of President Duterte,” the Confederation of Lawyers in Asia and the Pacific (COLAP) said in a statement.
On Sept. 13, Roque confirmed his bid to the UN International Law Commission while in New York in a regular press briefing.
This is not the first time that his bid to the UN law body was opposed. Lawyers groups and members of the academe, including the university of which he is an alumnus, earlier said that Roque was a defender of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is now facing charges before the International Criminal Court.
COLAP, in a statement published on Oct. 24, said Roque was an “instrument in propping” the Duterte regime’s human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, condescension for the rule of law and disrespect against UN human rights bodies, exemplifying the latest account of World Justice Project (WJP), where the Philippines further lowered in the Rule of Law Index to 102nd spot this year, together with Fundamental Rights falling to rank 123.
Among the signatories are lawyers from the Philippines, Pakistan, India, Japan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Malaysia, and South Korea.
The lawyers who signed COLAP’s statement also said Roque has grimaced at legitimate criticism and dissent, intimidated members of the media, lambasted and humiliated health professionals critical of malfunctioning pandemic measures, publicly rationalized extrajudicial killings in the so-called war on drugs, amused the president’s misogynist remarks, and permitted political repression as well as weaponization of the law, which demoralizes international liability entities like the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Human Rights Council.
Meanwhile, this morning (Philippine time), Filipino progressives held a protest action outside a restaurant in Manhattan, where Roque was described to be having a “lavish dinner.” Bayan-USA said the dinner likely cost at least a million pesos “to celebrate himself while the Filipino people are suffering.”
Roque claimed that rallyists ordered food and beverage “but did not pay for them.” Bayan USA, however, said they did not walk out without settling their bill, which can also be seen in the restaurant’s CCTV footage.
“There was no ‘storming’ into the restaurant and no damage to property. The staff were also treated respectfully. Roque’s security staff on the other hand became aggressive, and accosted the protesters who were merely walking to the reception area. His security staff shoved and pushed protesters violently in the narrow passageway,” said Bayan-USA in a statement.