Int’l group of lawyers says no to Duterte’s spokes’ nomination to UN law body

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MANILA — An international organization of lawyers is opposing the candidacy of the president’s spokesperson to the United Nations International Law Commission, saying that Harry Roque’s defense of President Rodrigo Duterte’s human rights record went beyond his so-called “call of duty.”

“To allow Mr. Roque to be elected to the Commission, therefore, is incompatible with its mandate, may contaminate its reputation and prestige, and might unduly compromise its credibility. At its core, his election will be adding insult to the irreparable injury to the victims of continuing human rights violations in the Philippines,” said the International Association of Democratic Lawyers in a statement today, Nov. 9.

The IADL, which has members from over 90 countries and has a consultative status before the United Nations Economic and Social Council, said that they have worked to develop international law through the years and led campaigns to changes in international humanitarian law. It is in this perspective, they added, that they consider it “inappropriate and unacceptable” that Roque be nominated.

“Mr. Roque has arrogantly defended and justified even beyond the ‘call of duty’ his principal’s attacks on human rights, justice, due process, and the rule of law,” the IADL said.

Among those who signed are lawyers from the US, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Mexico, Belgium, United Kingdom, Turkey, South Africa, Venezuela, Japan, France, and Puerto Rico.

This is not the first time that his nomination to the ILC has been opposed, following Roque’s confirmation on Sept. 13 in a regular press briefing in New York.

Among those who have opposed are local and international lawyers’ groups and members of the academe, including the university of which he is an alumnus, which referred to Roque as a defender of President Duterte, who is now facing charges before the International Criminal Court.

Yesterday, more than a hundred Filipino lawyers, including present and former senators have also expressed their opposition to Roque’s nomination.

“As a lawyer, he 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. We fear he will bring this with him to the ILC,” the appel read.

As of Nov. 8, the appeal has garnered at least 152 signatories.

Among them are Sen. Leila de Lima, former Sen. Wigberto Tañada, law school deans Pacifico Agabin, Rodel Taton, and JV Bautista, former Solicitor General Joel Cadiz, lawmakers Edcel Lagman and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, former lawmaker Erin Tañada, and human rights lawyers Neri Colmenares and Edre Olalia to name a few.

Signatories cited Roque’s “unbelievable” defense and justification of President Duterte’s pronouncements. This, they said, enabled extrajudicial killings, and attacks on the rule of law and due process. They also found his statements on issues on pandemic response and good governance as unacceptable.

“Quite incongruous for a professed international law expert, he has openly undermined international mechanisms on accountability like the ICC, the UN Human Rights Council, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Harry has also publicly enfeebled platforms for resolutions of conflicts like the Permanent Court of Arbitration.” the petition read.

Allowing Roque to be part of the ILC, they added, may diminish the UN law body’s credibility to make recommendations on development and international law before the international community. (JJE, RTS) (

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