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Duterte commends Roque’s honest stand on drug war

For the second time, UniTeam senatorial aspirant Harry Roque received President Rodrigo Duterte’s anointment for being on the truthful side of a social conflict like the war on drugs being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Duterte described Roque, the first Asian lawyer to practice at the ICC, as more than qualified to replace overstaying senators. The President also praised his stand on illegal drugs that destroy the lives of Filipinos.

In a recent one-on-one interview, the Chief Executive said he appointed Roque as a spokesman because of the latter’s honesty.

Duterte cited Roque’s temerity to attack and legally challenge his ‘Oplan Tokhang’ drug campaign.

In 2017, the Center for International Law (CenterLaw), which Roque founded, filed the first-ever petition to suspend ‘Oplan Tokhang’ before the Supreme Court.

Roque, a human rights advocate, investigated the extra-legal executions in Davao City, which confirmed the existence of the Davao Death Squad. He said his informants were highly-placed individuals in the judiciary.

However, there was no direct evidence that then city Mayor Duterte was behind the death squad, he said.

“The ICC wants to determine whether the Duterte government’s anti-drug campaign constitutes crimes against humanity. But should it exercise criminal jurisdiction when the Philippines has a functioning judicial system?” he asked.

The former party-list representative cited the complementarity principle enshrined in the Rome Statute, which states that ICC should complement national criminal jurisdictions.

The ICC can only admit a case if it can establish that a state is unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out an investigation or prosecution as provided under Article 17 of the statute.

“I dare any officer of the Court to provide evidence that our domestic courts are not competently working. Any lawyer who says so should immediately quit the legal profession,” he said.

The former party-list congressman said criminal cases had been filed against erring police officers who use illegal force in anti-drug and criminality operations.

In 2021, the justice department began determining the criminal liabilities of law enforcers involved in 52 drug-related cases.

Roque said local courts convicted police officers involved in the 2017 killing of 17-year old Kian Delos Santos and the 2020 murder of a mother and son in Tarlac, respectively.

“Police officers are not prohibited to kill in the line of duty, especially when their lives are under threat. This is where principles of necessity and proportionality relative to self-defense are applied,” he said.

He believes that in most cases, the presumption of regularity in the discharge of function is followed by law enforcers because they underwent training on the legal use of police force.

The ICC suspended its formal investigation after granting the deferral request of the Philippine government last November.


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