The Bertha Justice Network has urged Philippine Congressman, Harry Roque, to reconsider taking up the position of President Duterte’s spokesman. Prior to his election to the House of Representatives in 2016, Mr Roque was a lawyer and a founding member of the Center for International Law, a Philippine organization that works to defend human rights.
We are extremely concerned that in his position as Presidential Spokesman, Mr Roque will be called upon to defend the extrajudicial killings that have been committed under Mr Duterte’s Presidency as part of his “war on drugs”. This is antithetical to everything the Bertha Justice Network stands for.
Bertha Foundation continues to support its partner organization, the Center for International Law, whose lawyers are at the forefront of the resistance to extrajudicial killings and other abuses committed in the name of the war on drugs. The Center for International Law has cut its ties with Mr Roque.
The full text of the letter can be read below.
26 October 2017
We are writing to express our deepest concern about the news of your prospective appointment as spokesperson of President Rodrigo Duterte. Many of us, your former colleagues, remember you as a fierce advocate for human rights.
As you know better than we do, the Philippines has seen extrajudicial killings of an unprecedented scale since President Duterte took office on 30 June 2016. According to the Philippine National Police, the tally stood at more than 7,000 killings of suspected drug users and dealers by January of this year. Responsibility for more than 2,500 of these killings was claimed by police. In many other cases, there is evidence of police collusion with vigilante killers. The perpetrators remain in almost complete impunity.
President Duterte has actively encouraged and condoned these human rights violations that we assess to constitute crimes against humanity. He has said that “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there are three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” He has also warned drug dealers that “[m]y order is shoot to kill you. I don’t care about human rights, you better believe me,” and announced that every police killing enjoys a “presumption of regularity”.
As the Bertha Justice Network, we strive to bring about a more just world and human rights for all. This vision is incompatible with working for Duterte, who embodies everything we and our partners struggle against.
We appreciate our collaboration and the important work that CenterLaw has been conducting as a member of the Bertha Justice Network. This includes the important cases of Efren Morillo and Others and of citizens of San Andres Bukid before the Philippine Supreme Court that address extrajudicial killings committed by police under President Duterte.
We strongly urge you to reconsider taking up the position of President Duterte’s spokesperson. We ask you to stand on the right side of the struggle for human rights and justice in the Philippines.
Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), Haiti
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), USA
Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), South Africa
Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo” (CCAJAR)
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Germany
Foundation for Fundamental Rights Pakistan (FFR), Pakistan
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), USA
Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, A.C (ProDESC), Mexico
Reprieve, United Kingdom
Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), South Africa
EarthRights International (ERI) USA, Peru, Thailand, and Myanmar Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), South Africa
Legal Resources Centre (LRC), South Africa
Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Occupied Palestinian Territories