Roque appointed presidential adviser on human rights

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 22) — Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Wednesday revealed he was recently appointed as the new presidential adviser on human rights.

Roque, a human rights lawyer, said he will hold his two positions simultaneously.

"I will take steps to ensure that the Philippines discharges its obligations in protecting and promoting human rights, especially the right to life," Roque said.

The former Kabayan representative is the first to hold the position under the Duterte administration, which has been criticized by human rights advocates for its war against drugs because of alleged extrajudicial killings.

When he was appointed as spokesperson earlier this month, Roque said he had hoped to advise the President on his war against illegal drugs.

"By accepting this position, I am not condoning the violence surrounding the government's anti-drug campaign," Roque had said.

Roque added that he will "continue to value the right to life and dignity of every person and... not support the arbitrary killing of any person by the State."

'Rhetorical' challenge from HR Commissioner

Roque's revelation of his second appointment as human rights adviser comes amid worsening relations between Malacanang and the Commission on Human Rights.

Human Rights Commissioner Roberto Cadiz on Wednesday considered Roque, who defended human rights cases, as a "big disappointment."

Roque had earlier challenged Cadiz to name the lawyers he was alluding to during a speech Cadiz made on Monday before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

"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 also said that the Commission on Human Rights is wrong in thinking that it can only look into human rights violations committed by state agents.

Cadiz said he considered Roque's challenge "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," Cadiz said in a statement.

Roque was among the prosecution lawyers in the Maguindanao massacre against 198 suspects, which included former Datu Unsay, Maguindanao mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

The massacre, which happened on November 2009, saw the death of 58 people including 32 media workers. It is considered by global media groups as one of the worst election-related violence recorded in recent history, and the single deadliest attack on journalists ever recorded.

Roque was also the lawyer of Jennifer Laude's family against United States Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton who was accused of killing Laude in 2014.

Duterte slams CHR chair

President Duterte himself has not minced words either with Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Chito Gascon, as his tirades against the agency continue.

"Ito si Gascon.. T*** i** ka. Kung makita kita. Better avoid my way or cross path. P***** i** mo sampalin talaga kita. Totoo lang, di ko malaman kung bakla ka o…either masipa kita," Duterte said in remarks Tuesday at the 65th General Assembly of the League of Cities of the Philippines.

[Translation: This Gascon...You son of a b****. If I see you. Better avoid my way or cross path. I will slap you. To be honest, I don't know if you're gay or what...I could even kick you.]

Duterte noted how the CHR raises the issue of the thousands killed in the drug war without finding out why and how exactly these people were killed.

Palace takes swipe at UN Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings

Roque also called out on Wednesday United Nations (UN) Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-drugs campaign.

"Ms. Callamard, we reiterate, is not a competent and impartial rapporteur on our anti-drug campaign. The way she conducted herself does not befit her office," Roque said.

He also defended Duterte after the President said he would "slap" the UN rapporteur for meddling with the drug war. The President made the remarks on November 9 in Vietnam when he met with Filipino workers there.

"We need to point that the President's remarks on Callamard were addressed to a Filipino audience who are used to the Chief Executive's unorthodox," Roque said.

UN High Commissioner for for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville on Tuesday said the agency "deplores the repeated insults and threats of physical violence" against Callamard.                  

"This campaign, coupled with the repeated personal attacks on Ms. Callamard by President Duterte, seems to be designed to intimidate her into not carrying out the mandate bestowed on her by the Human Rights Council," Colville said.