When Harry Roque strengthened the state
We all know by now the profuse exhilaration uncontained by Harry Roque in 2011. In “Harry Roque’s Blog,” taglined “Thoughts of an activist lawyer,” Roque not only waxed dramatic but melancholic as well.
“After 11 years of lobbying, the Philippine Senate yesterday gave its concurrence to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This will finally pave the way for the country to be the 117th state party to the International Criminal Court.”
He had also deferred to fatalism in referring to his then human rights advocacy colleague:
“Loretta Ann Rosales rightfully observed that 117 is also reflective of the voting pattern at the Senate: one negative vote and 17 affirmative votes!” Certainly the exclamation point at the end of his reference is not lost.
Roque narrates the cliffhanger:
“Two days ago, I was at the Senate floor with no less than 100 supporters of the court to witness the much-awaited concurrence. We were disappointed … At least three senators had warned me that it would be difficult to pass a resolution that the Senate President opposed. It was hence a long day of lobbying with seemingly endless telephone calls and text messages to any senator who was willing to listen.”
Then Roque the sanguine but sometimes, choleric human rights lawyer, cuts with the substance of the ICC statute:
“The International Criminal Court was created to prosecute individuals who may commit the most serious crimes against the international community.” Roque then goes to define genocide, war crimes, aggression, the act of waging war, and then crimes against humanity:
“ … widespread or systematic attacks against civilian populations knowing that it is being directed against civilian populations.
“The court will prosecute individuals without regard to sovereign immunity as a defense, a fact that has enabled the court to issue two warrants of arrests against sitting heads of state: Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Furthermore, it prosecutes individuals who are probably guilty of the foregoing crime on the basis of command responsibility.
“This principle provides that military commanders and sitting presidents may be held responsible for crimes committed by their subordinates where they knew about it and failed to prevent their happening.
“Furthermore, there is no prescription for these crimes. This explains why very old individuals are still being tried for crimes that they committed as long ago as World War II.”
The human side to what Roque describes was a grueling 11-year crusade of human rights advocacy was not lost on him, one we ordinary mortals could easily identify with:
“Of course we celebrated. Becky Lozada, executive director of the Philippine Coalition for the ICC, treated us at a fusion Philippine restaurant at the trendy techno hub.
“To be candid about it, I never thought that membership in the ICC was possible, at least before I become geriatric. This is because of the many atrocities under both the Marcos and Arroyo regimes that remain unpunished. Well, it’s always a pleasure to be proven wrong.”
Roque today has not become geriatric yet. He remains young and articulate and smart. But overnight, he has become instead one of the vilest references people easily append to those in power: a politician of the weather-weather lang variety. His is of the kind like many others before him who made the Philippine state a high stakes game of pretentious wheeling-dealing where lying takes center stage value.
He has become a player in weakening the state. Well, it’s always a pleasure to be proven wrong indeed.