Law commission

Roque confirms being in New York for the International Law Commission bid

FLAG says presidential spokesperson ‘unworthy’ of consideration

Presidential Spokesperson Herminio “Harry” Roque Jr. shares his remarks with President Rodrigo Duterte during a meeting with key members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at Arcadia Active Lifestyle Center in Matina, Davao City on February 15, 2021. Joey Dalumpines, presidential photo

MANILA – Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Monday he was in New York for his appointment as a member of the International Law Commission (ILC), an advisory body to the United Nations.

“Narito po toyo ngayon in New York dahil pipili po of 34 na mga miyembro of ILC and miyembro of United Nations,” Roque said during an online press briefing.

(We are here in New York because the UN is going to choose 34 ILC members.)

“Hindi po ito full time job, wala po itong sweldo. Mayroon lang pong pagpupulong na gagawin kung hindi po ako nagkakamali est ilang linggo kada taon. Wala pong sweldo,” he said.

(It’s not a full-time job. There’s no salary. Members only attend meetings a few weeks a year, if I’m not mistaken.)

Roque is aiming to be among eight Asia-Pacific nationals to serve on the ILC, which serves for five years. Eleven people, including him, are nominated. The nomination period ended in June.

The mandate of the ILC is “to undertake studies and make recommendations for the purpose… of encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification”.

Presidential spokesman Rodrigo Duterte said he was appointed by the government and had two platforms to present.

This includes his draft treaty on equal access to the COVID-19 vaccine and the need for nations to recognize the permanent presence of states that could eventually be sunk in marine waters due to global warming.


Saying he is unworthy of consideration for the job because of his “lack of integrity and character”, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) opposed Roque’s nomination.

“Mr. Roque does not have the qualifications for a seat on the Commission. Although he has a law degree and has taught public international law, he is a political supporter who has actively shown his contempt for the rule of law and , with a particular interest in the Commission, has undermined the supremacy of human rights and international law,” FLAG officers led by National President Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno said in a letter dated September 12.

FLAG wants the ILC to disregard Roque’s nomination and remove him from consideration for a seat on the commission.

Similar letters have also been sent to each of the 193 UN member states, which will vote on Roque’s nomination, according to FLAG Metro Manila regional coordinator and former Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te.

The letters were sent to 210 email addresses, Te said.

Attached to the letter are some public statements by Roque regarding extrajudicial executions, Duterte’s sexist jokes, the International Criminal Court investigation, red flagging and military killings.

Among these is a statement justifying Duterte’s order to kill suspected communist rebels.

“Dahil can digmaang nangyayari with CPP-NPA, Hindi po ipinagbabawal ang pagpatay. Under IHL give order of president, kill, kill, kill. Alangan naman pong ikaw ang mamatay,” Roque said in a press report during a press briefing in Malacanang in March this year.

(Because there is an ongoing war with the CPP-NPA, killing is not prohibited. Under IHL, the President’s order is correct – kill, kill, kill. You should not be the one who is dead.)

These statements, FLAG said, show that Roque “used his knowledge of international law to undermine the protections that international law provides under a human rights regime and the rule of law.”

“His motives for doing so are clearly for political gain as he has not been quiet about his plans to run for elected office,” the group added.

“His public advocacy of extrajudicial killings, his diminishing of the jurisdiction and jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and his cavalier disregard for the effects of domestic human rights abuses, among other things, make him unsuited to the work of the Commission. His statements were made, alternately, with a sneering disregard for the plight of the victims or a ruthless attempt to justify the same with misplaced humor,” FLAG said in its letter.

“All of this demonstrates a manifest lack of integrity and character which renders him utterly unworthy of even being seriously considered as a member of the International Law Commission. He will bring no honor to the post he seeks, instead of this, it will tarnish it irremediably.


In his 26-page resume submitted to the ILC, Roque, 54, detailed his educational and professional experiences as well as his awards and citations.

These include his years teaching at the University of the Philippines Law School, his advocacy of international law, and his year-long stint in the House of Representatives.

He listed some of the 220 bills he introduced as part of the Lower House, some of which have been signed into law.

Roque also listed the cases he has represented in the Supreme Court of the Philippines, among them the petition to compel the transmission of the signed Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to the Senate for ratification.

Notably, as a spokesman for Duterte, Roque has since said the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines, having effectively withdrawn from the Rome Statute in March 2019. He also continues to insist that the country will not cooperate with any potential ICC investigation.

Roque also cited more than a thousand television and radio appearances and his stint as a radio host on ABS-CBN’s DZMM TeleRadyo.

DZMM, along with other ABS-CBN stations, were shut down under the Duterte administration.

In addition to FLAG, the rights coalition iDEFEND launched an online campaign against Roque’s nomination.


“Hahayaan ko na po ang mga estado in daigdig na magdesisyon kung karapat-dapat po ba ako na mahalal sa ILC. Pero ang kwalipakisayon ​​lang po eksperto po to larangan ng international law,” Roque said during his press briefing.

(I will let the States decide if I am worthy of being elected to the ILC. But the only qualification required is to be an expert in the field of international law.)