Rights groups to Roque: Reconsider offer to be Duterte spokesman

NOT THE HARRY WE KNOW. A group of human rights organizations says they know Kabayan Representative Harry Roque as a staunch human rights activist.

File photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines –  A group of legal and human rights organizations strongly urged Kabayan Representative Harry Roque to reconsider President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to be his spokesperson.

“We ask you to stand on the right side of the struggle for human rights and justice in the Philippines,” Bertha Justice Network, a network composed of 14 international groups, said in an open letter dated Thursday, October 26.

Two sources told Rappler that Duterte is considering tapping Roque. Initially hesitant to accept the post, the two are likely to come to an agreement during a dinner scheduled this week. (READ: Duterte offering Harry Roque Palace communications post)

A known human rights lawyer, Roque has handled high-profile cases with the Center for International Law (CenterLaw) – including cases of families of the Maguindanao Massacre victims, slain transgender Jennifer Laude, and slain journalist and environmental activist Gerry Ortega, among others.

CenterLaw, in fact, is one of the law groups actively filing cases on behalf of victims of extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s war on drugs, which has so far yielded at least 3,850 people dead in police operations. At least 2,290 others have been killed mostly by vigilantes. 

The group also filed the first petition against Oplan TokHang in January.  

Bertha Justice Network reminded Roque that accepting the position is contrary to the nature of his past cases and his prior involvement with CenterLaw. 

“Many of us, your former colleagues, remember you as a fierce advocate for human rights,” it said. “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,” it added.  

Below are the organizations that signed the open letter to Roque in Cape Town, South Africa: 

Read the full letter:  

– Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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