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Roque hopes to defend himself in Senate speech

If elected, UniTeam senatorial candidate Harry Roque’s first privilege speech would be a defense of his honor against accusers in the international community who called him a “war criminal.”

The former presidential spokesman vowed to clear his name of accusations that he was complicit with crimes against humanity concerning the war on illicit drugs.

Roque said he would never condone acts that infringe on human rights or legally defend suspects involved in drug-related cases.

Roque is the first Asian admitted to practice before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC suspended its investigation of the government’s drug war last November.

“Critics have portrayed me as a war criminal only because I was President Duterte’s spokesman. Last year, when I ran for the International Law Council, they used the same guilt by association fallacy,” Roque said.

He said that government detractors had politicized the drug problem and other issues by hitting him, hoping that this could also hit the President.

“I know how it feels to be blamed and vilified for the acts of others. But my conscience is clear because I have always been on the right side of the law,” Roque further said.

The Center for International Law, which Roque founded, has filed charges against law enforcers linked to illegal police operations and extralegal executions since 2017.

Roque said victims of extrajudicial killing should have access to adequate domestic legal remedies. He added that the State must uphold its constitutional mandate to protect the Filipinos’ right to life.

He also founded the non-profit Onesimo Foundation, which has rehabilitated young drug addicts from poor communities in Metro Manila since 1996.

The former party-list congressman noted President Duterte fully supports Onesimo’s faith-based therapeutic rehabilitation of drug-dependent Filipino youth.

As a litigator, Roque has sought justice for human rights victims like the 19 newsmen in the Maguindanao Massacre case, the late transgender Jennifer Laude, and Filipino sexual slaves during World War II.

He also filed the first communication before the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the widows of the Maguindanao Massacre victims.

Representing a Filipino client, Roque questioned the legality of Philippine libel law before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

His legislative agenda for the Senate includes the ‘three-day court hearing’ rule and Victims Compensation Fund for murder victims.

Roque would also propose bills on job creation for pandemic-affected workers, livelihood recovery for typhoon Odette victims, and improved Universal Health Care coverage.

He would also file bills on “zero hunger” in the Philippines by 2028 and the right to potable water for all Filipinos within six years.


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