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Harry's Turn

We are all free to change our minds about anything, no matter how staunchly we have stuck to our decisions prior to the turnaround. This shows that we evolve, that we exercise critical thinking continuously, and that we are humble enough to admit we know better now than we did before.

Some changes are, however, less palatable than others, especially if the reason for changing one’s mind does not appear to come from enlightenment.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque easily comes to mind.

Several years ago, Roque styled himself as a champion of human rights and international law. In 2011, he was among the most jubilant that the Philippines had finally signed the Rome Statute that paved the way for our membership to the International Criminal Court. The signing took 11 years of lobbying. Roque wrote then that it paved the way for ending impunity.

Roque also handled cases that invoked the applicability of international law on, for instance, the Malayas Lolas who were made into sex slaves by the Japanese during World War II.

Now he has changed his mind—and what an about-face we are seeing now.

Roque’s change of heart was prompted by President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the ICC after it said it would proceed with its investigations into the killing supposedly committed in the name of the war against drugs.

Now he says the ICC, which called on the Philippines to honor its commitment to address atrocities and deliver justice, went beyond the scope of its authority. The ICC has also said withdrawal from the Rome Statute will not exempt Mr. Duterte from prosecution for charges of crimes against humanity.

Roque’s reasons must be so compelling for him to contradict himself and go against the things he so passionately advocated in his previous life. Now he has had the rare opportunity of arguing an issue from opposite sides. Whether he is convincing is one thing. Whether he is being true—and how he can stomach this pretension if he isn’t—is quite another.

Perhaps despite all the lofty things the spokesman has said and written about in the past, ultimately what matters is that he has a job to do. This is a rude awakening. It reminds us that even the most vocal of crusaders can fail their own high standards, too.

Topics: Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque , champion of human rights , international law , International Criminal Court , President Rodrigo Duterte
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