The person who leaked a video of Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque’s outburst at a group of doctors could face charges for supposedly revealing government secrets and violating the data privacy law, Roque said Monday.
“I think the person is liable, also for revealing public secrets. But I will let the IATF decide on it as the matter is being discussed by the body,” said Roque, who is also the spokesman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, in a Palace press briefing.
He said it is up to the IATF to file possible charges against the person.
The video, which circulated widely last week, showed Roque berating and shouting at a group of doctors at an online meeting of the IATF for warning that relaxing lockdowns could lead to a further spike in COVID-19 infections.
Many in the medical community have demanded that Roque apologize, while others said he should resign for his disrespectful outburst.
On Monday, Dr. Antonio Dans, one of the doctors at the receiving end of Roque’s harangue, said health workers would not be deterred from serving the public, despite the presidential spokesman’s outburst.
“We will not be intimidated by Secretary Roque. We will do what’s necessary. We will continue helping the public,” said Dans, convener of Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Free Legal Assistance Group on Monday objected to the nomination of Roque, who has been defending President Rodrigo Duterte against links to alleged human rights violations, to the International Law Commission for being unqualified to the post.
In a letter dated September 12, the FLAG stressed Roque “does not possess the qualifications for a seat at the Commission.”
“While he has degrees in law and has taught Public International Law, he is a political partisan who has actively demonstrated contempt for the rule of law and, with specific relevance to the Commission, has undermined the supremacy of human rights and international law,” FLAG chairman Jose Manuel Diokno said.
“FLAG respectfully asks the Commission to peremptorily disregard the nomination of Mr. Roque and remove him from consideration for a seat in the Commission,” Diokno added.
Roque shrugged off FLAG’s protest as “bereft of legal merit.”
“Nothing, because that’s the decision of member states. If member states listen to them, we can’t do anything about it,” Roque said in reaction to FLAG’s call for the rejection of his nomination.
On Saturday, Philippine College of Physicians head Dr. Maricar Limpin, who was at the receiving end of Roque’s outburst, said he should resign out of delicadeza.
Roque had apologized to health workers and said he was just “human” who became emotional, but reiterated Monday that he stands by his message.
It was also not clear if the IATF already identified the person who shared the video clip to a newspaper journalist, who then shared it on Twitter.
“Do not sit there as if you’re the only ones right. We’re trying to achieve total health. Who wants COVID to kill people?” Roque was seen saying on the video during a Zoom meeting.
“Are you saying that only medical frontliners are concerned about the health of the people? We all want to save lives. For crying out loud, no one in the government wants a single life lost. No one! How dare you think that we are not considering steps to prevent the loss of lives?” he added.
Roque said the government was employing a whole-of-government approach, considering economic activities and the people who would go hungry because of the lockdowns.
According to FLAG’s Diokno, if Roque becomes a part of the ILC, the Cabinet secretary would “bring no honor to the post he seeks, instead he will tarnish the same irreparably.”
The lawyers’ group also said Roque, who has been the spokesperson of Duterte from October 2017 until 2018 and returned as spokesperson in April 2020, is “ill-befit” to become a part of the ILC.
The members of the ILC are elected by the United Nations General Assembly and are given the task to develop and codify international laws.
The group lamented that as spokesperson, Roque has reportedly publicly defended the extra-judicial killings linked to the Duterte administration, belittled the competence and jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and has disregarded the effects of domestic violations of human rights.
“His pronouncements have been made, alternately, with sneering contempt for the plight of victims or a callous attempt to justify the same with misplaced humor. He has used his knowledge of international law to undermine the protections that international law provides under a regime of human rights and the rule of law,” FLAG said.
The lawyers’ group said Roque made such statements and actions in order to bolster his chances to win an elective position in the 2022 polls.
“His motivations for doing so are clearly for political gains as he has not been discreet about his plans to seek elective office,” it added.
Reports showed that Roque has been invited as a guest senatorial candidate of the PDP-LABAN Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi wing.
“All these demonstrate a patent lack of integrity and character that make him utterly unworthy to even be seriously considered as part of the ILC,” FLAG said.
Roque, however, said he has not ever shown blatant disrespect for the law and human rights as Duterte’s spokesperson.
“That’s absolutely bereft of legal merit because if I did disrespect them, I should be facing a complaint by now,” he said.
Roque said his job of relaying information regarding issues and concerns related to the President is part of the freedom of information, which is also a human right.
“I believe that the majority, if not a large percent of our people, can see that we are doing our job well. FOI or Freedom of Information is a human right,” he added.
He also said the ILC and ICC were two separate entities.
He said dozens of countries, including the Philippines, are not members of the ICC, including China, India, Russia, and even the United States.
“If their reason is because of the International Criminal Court, not all countries are members of the International Criminal Court. In fact, many of those who will vote are not members. Only a minority of members of the general assembly are members of the International Criminal Court,” he added.