Opinion

UP Against Harry Roque: Roque Reacts

On the statement of the UP Diliman Executive Committee

I respect the right of the Committee and its members to proffer their opinion on my candidacy and I understand that my actions, especially in accepting a cabinet post as Spokesperson to the President will not please everyone. However, 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.

The UP Diliman Executive Committee states that their objection is based on my “poor track record of promoting, defending and fulfilling human rights and the rule of law, especially during the administration of President Duterte”. I wish to challenge this assessment because it is untrue. For over 30 years, I have been an advocate of human rights, having spent most of my professional life as a member of civil society and as a public interest lawyer representing persons and sectors who have needed to be championed. I have represented journalists, most notably the families of 19 victims of the Ampatuan massacre in domestic courts and before international monitoring bodies with the case of Adonis garnering the view that criminal libel is inconsistent with the ICCPR. I was counsel to the Panatag Shoal fishermen, the comfort women of WWII and the families of Darius Evangelista and Jennifer Laude, among others. 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.

I also believe I have greatly furthered the human rights of my fellow Filipinos in recent years due to the passing of the Universal Health Care Law – of which I was one of the principal authors, the Free Irrigation Service Act for small-scale farmers, a national lunch feeding program for students, the HIV Policy Law, etc… 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.

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. Rather, it is an expert group of people who have the necessary credentials and experience in public international law needed to codify customary international law and develop the same. My curriculum vitae speaks for itself regarding my credentials in the field of public international law.

Despite the UP Executive Committee best efforts in belittling my track record in human rights and ignoring altogether my credentials in field of public international law, which is what is relevant to the mandate of the International Law Commission, I wish to assure my former colleagues in UP that my commitment to human rights and the rule of law 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.

Secretary Harry Roque
Presidential Spokesperson

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