United Nations Headquarters
Attn: Secretary of the International Law Commission
2 United Nations Plaza
323 E. 44th St.
New York, NY 10017
This is to put forward our objection to the nomination of Mr. Herminio Harry L. Roque, as member to the International Law Commission (ILC) from the Asia-Pacific States - Philippines.
There is concern as to whether Mr. Roque would be able to effectively perform his mandate under the ILC. For one, Mr. Roque is the incumbent Presidential Spokesperson of the Philippine Government. Although there is no prohibition as to the members of the ILC holding elective or appointive offices in their respective States, holding such a high appointive position may conflict with his duties in the Commission, whose members are expected to perform in their individual capacities; in his position as Presidential Spokesperson Mr. Roque's behavior and conduct in light of the Philippine's socio-political situation puts his nomination in question. Further, Mr. Roque has also expressed his intentions to run for public office in the 2022 elections.
Mr. Roque was formerly a human rights lawyer. It is interesting to note that Mr. Roque had once actively lobbied for the Philippine membership in the International Criminal Court.
Once he entered politics, though, we are less certain of his integrity. After being appointed as Presidential Spokesperson, he has defended many of the government's repressive policies, not least the extrajudicial killing of thousands of suspects in the government's war on drugs, often using his legal knowledge to justify the widespread violence and human rights violations happening in the Philippines. Indeed, he has clearly signified a transformation towards being an apologist to the Duterte administration.
Our objection is grounded on the following reasons:
Mr. Roque works against the interests of international justice.
As Presidential Spokesperson, Mr. Roque seeks to shield the country's President- accused of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court-from liability, while at the same time undermining the importance of the Court's inquiry into the human rights situation in the Philippines. His opinions betray a conduct ill-befitting of a state agent, much less a member of the legal profession. Quoted below are some of his public speeches and opinions:
"I am confident that the pre-trial chamber will reject the request for investigation," said Roque in a press briefing at the Philippine National Police's headquarters. "They will just waste time and resources of the court because, without cooperation from the Philippine state, they won't be able to make a case except for one based on hearsay and from the communists and political enemies of the President," added Roque in Filipino."
Mr. Roque actively promoted that the government will not cooperate with the ICC. "We are confident because we already said that we don't recognize ICC jurisdiction. ICC will apply its ruling in a previous case wherein they won't open a case if the country will not cooperate," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing on Tuesday, December 15."
Mr. Roque does not consider the slow justice system as sustaining the culture of impunity. "If the process in the Philippines is slow, the ICC process is even slower because three years passed before a preliminary investigation. Why are we demanding that the processes in the Philippines be faster?" asked Roque in Filipino."
Mr. Roque falsely claimed that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's sources were enemies of the President, specifically former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Communist Party of the Philippines founder Joma Sison. Roque slammed Bensouda's report as "fantastic," saying it is not based on forensic evidence.
“Paano sila makakasampa ng kaso? Makakasampa ba sila ng kaso on the basis of what Joma Sison said alone? On the basis of what Sonny Trillanes said alone? Paano ngayon ‘yan?" (How can they file a case? Can they file a case based on what Joma Sison said alone? On the basis of what Sonny Trillanes said alone? What happens now?")
"Without resorting to forensic examination, without resorting to primary documents, relying only on media reports, she came out with a fantastic conclusion that almost all of the killings were in fact they themselves were nanlaban (suspects fought back)," he said."
Mr. Roque has also received the ire of Philippine citizens with his callous and insensitive remarks, circumventing regulations, and questionable actions in his defense of government policies and pronouncements:
Upon being appointed Presidential spokesperson Mr. Roque threatened to throw hollow blocks at the opposition for criticizing the chief executive and said critics can die of envy of his appointment.
The Presidential spokesperson has falsely claimed that the President defends press freedom, however it is the President's orders to ban reporters from covering Palace officials; the President's directive to Congress to deny the franchise and hence to close the largest television network ABS CBN, and to actively persecute journalists and newspapers including the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rappler, Maria Ressa and Rey Santos Jr.
Roque has shown support and had defended the Manila Bay ‘beautification' amid strong public objections and questions as to why the budget that could have been well used to improve the COVID-19 response was used for the dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay instead. He was quoted, falsely claiming that the Bay's restoration would greatly benefit the mental health of the Filipinos.
Roque was a habitual violator of COVID19 quarantine regulations in the country as he travelled to tourist destinations despite clear lockdown policies in place, prompting wide criticisms of abuse of power.
Without the benefit of formal investigations into the deaths in the war on drugs, Mr. Roque touts the propaganda of the government: “motormouth Harry Roque admitted that thousands of those killed were just “collateral damage."
“Well, in any war, unfortunately, there will be collateral damage.."
In Mr. Roque's defense of the drug war which have killed countless Filipinos, he had even espoused an opinion that he should be included as an accomplice in the investigation as well.
Mr. Roque does not harbor the principles befitting a member of the ILC:
Mr. Roque has also been the subject of numerous online memes in the Philippines. These memes often ridicule his positions on issues especially when compared with positions of authorities far more competent and more trusted by the public. Humorous as they are made to appear, the message of the citizens is clear: Mr. Roque has fast become the subject of jokes - he has lost the trust and the respect of the people. These memes and jokes are not without basis; he has been a target of such because of his own turncoatism, and false claims, elaborated in the following:
“When he said he had no problem with President Rodrigo Duterte's move to grant “absolute pardon" to US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Pemberton, (convicted of killing transwoman Jennifer Laude in 2014). Roque, a former human rights lawyer, (represented) the latter's family as counsel (to prosecute Pemberton)." The Pemberton pardon is an issue that has put Mr. Roques principles into question.
Before he became Duterte's mouthpiece – and even before Duterte won the presidency – Mr. Roque warned Filipinos against voting for the longtime Davao City mayor.
"Please, I want you to go out and not just vote against him but convince your neighbors and friends that because the right to life is the most important of them all, please do not vote for this murderer, this self-professed murderer," Roque once said.
In February 2018 Roque turned 180 degrees and told Rappler: "I speak for the President now. In this capacity, I have no personal opinions."
Mr. Roque had been counsel to fishermen affected by the Scarborough Shoal dispute and had criticized the aggression of China in the West Philippine Sea, however he has turned around and now denies any tension in the West Philippine Sea issue.
“Duterte has been making a punching bag out of television network ABS-CBN, newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer, and online news site Rappler, among others, over critical stories against him and his administration.
In another lifetime, Roque would have been expected to take the cudgels for the media as he did during the tumultuous years of former president Arroyo. Roque gathered Filipino journalists for a class suit against former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, who was back then filing libel cases left and right."
Mr. Roque has been fact-checked regarding COVID19 issues and was found to have falsely claimed that face masks and face shields have almost equal protection with vaccines.
Mr. Roque also rationalized the rape joke made by President Duterte, saying that a joke made by the President should not be given much weight and besides, "From what I have seen myself, although I am from Luzon, people from the South, they don't really take things as seriously as people in Luzon," "Let's just say there are standards of what is offensive and what is not offensive. It's more liberal in the South,"
Women's rights organizations have filed a complaint before the country's Gender Ombud in 2016 before Duterte's election into office, accusing Duterte of violating the Magna Carta of Women- a law that protects the rights of women in the country.
“The ICL was established to undertake the mandate of the Assembly, under article 13 (1) (a) of the Charter of the United Nations to "initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of ... encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification".
The above quoted being the primary mandate of the ILC, this august body of legal minds deserves members who demonstrate a positive contribution to the development of progressive law in their profession. We have concerns that the ILC may unfortunately bestow such an important post to a person who flaunt a blatant disrespect for the rule of law and human rights, which are the very foundation of the United Nations.
Based on previously stated reasons for our objection, it is evident that Mr. Roque has prioritized his personal interests and political ambitions, over his responsibilities before the domestic laws of the Philippines. We have doubts that Mr. Roque's failure in promoting and upholding human rights principles, the rule of law, and truthful representation of facts, may negatively affect his mandate, should he serve a term in the ILC.
One of the tasks given to a member of the ILC would be to see to the possible codification of [general principles] of international law. However, through his previous public statements, Mr. Harry Roque undermined the role of international law and the integrity of the ICC. This makes him a liability. His successful nomination would lead to an appointment of a partial and biased representative which may degrade the development, effectiveness and integrity of the ILC and international law altogether.
Throughout its history, the Philippines takes honor and pride in being able to contribute to the advancement of the objectives of the United Nations, including the codification of numerous human rights instruments and guidelines. In the interest of protecting this legacy, we humbly submit that the ILC reject his nomination for membership.
 “Roque threatens to throw hollow blocks at stubborn critics"; Philippine Daily Inquirer; Roque threatens to throw hollow blocks at stubborn critics | Inquirer News
 “Maria Ressa contradicts Roque claim that Duterte values press freedom"; GMA News Online; Maria Ressa contradicts Roque claim that Duterte values press freedom | GMA News Online (gmanetwork.com)
 Harry Roque takes a dip with the dolphins in Subic amid quarantine; GMA News Online; Harry Roque takes a dip with the dolphins in Subic amid quarantine | GMA News Online (gmanetwork.com)
 WATCH: Roque told people not to vote for 'self-professed murderer' Duterte; RAPPLER; WATCH: Roque told people not to vote for 'self-professed murderer' Duterte (rappler.com)
 Women's Rights Groups file complaint vs. Duterte; https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2016/04/20/duterte-complaint-womens-rights-group-chr.html
The final result of our call on the ILC to Reject Harry Roque are as follows:
315 Organizations signed the petition
29,014 Individuals from 99 countries joined the call
Read our final update: Harry Roque REJECTED!
Privacy notice: All personal details of signatories have now been deleted.