MANILA — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. on Tuesday dared Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Roberto Cadiz to name the lawyers that he accused of mocking the law and human rights, while accusing the CHR itself of being remiss on its mandate to protect the human rights of the victims of atrocities committed by terrorists and non-state actors.
“It’s curious that CHR Commissioner Cadiz said that lawyers are mocking the law and human rights,” he said during a Palace briefing.
On Monday, the CHR commissioner said that “justice, human rights, and the rule of law are being mocked by a lawyer, aided and abetted by other lawyers.”
“So I’d like to challenge Commissioner Cadiz: name names. Who is the lawyer who he alleges to be making a mockery out of the rule of law and human rights? And who are the lawyers assisting this main lawyer whom he says is mocking human rights and the rule of law?” Roque said.
The Palace official said that it is the CHR that is remiss in protecting human rights as it is not doing anything to investigate human rights violations committed by non-state actors, particularly the Maute terror group.
Because of this, Roque said his office would hold its first press briefing in Marawi City on Wednesday, where one of their objectives is “to gather as many information on the cases that we can file against members of the Maute terrorist group for violations of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).”
The IHL is the domestic law implementing the second additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions, otherwise known as punishing war crimes committed in non-international armed conflicts.
“We will do this, knowing that the CHR will not be any help in according victims of the Maute terrorist group justice. Someone has to take up the cudgels for the victims of war crimes in domestic armed conflicts,” Roque said.
“So far, I’ve not heard any investigation conducted by the CHR on the atrocities committed by the Mautes,” he added.
He likewise said that Malacañang would not wait for the CHR to take the initiative because it is clear that that the rights body has “other priorities”.
“It is always atrocities allegedly committed by state agents. And their position has been consistent, their role is to document abuses of human rights committed by state agents. Which is wrong, because international humanitarian law punishes everyone even non-state actors,” Roque pointed out.
“If you look at the case law of the international criminal court, majority of the accused are non-state actors,” he said.
For cases against the Maute atrocities, Roque said his office would coordinate with the Justice Department’s special committee of public prosecutors formed by Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to prosecute individuals for violations of the IHL in connection with Marawi.
As for human rights violations allegedly committed by military forces, he said the Palace is leaving it up to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to investigate complaints filed against its soldiers under its obligation under the Geneva Conventions.
“So I leave that to the Armed Forces. I’m taking up the cudgels for those whose rights unfortunately are not being espoused by the CHR. And that is why I take offense with that statement that some lawyers, according to the CHR, are, to quote again, he said, mocking the law and human rights,” he said.
“I think Commissioner Cadiz has claimed the monopoly for upholding the rule of law and human rights,” Roque said.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Cadiz shrugged off Roque’s challenge, saying that the latter can name these lawyers himself.
“I view the challenge as a rhetorical one, because he knows very well who they are. Mr. Roque is a big disappointment to the Human Rights community and I do not blame him if he felt alluded to as one of them,” the CHR Commissioner said. (PNA)