Palace spokesman Harry Roque on Tuesday downplayed the opposition of 152 lawyers to his International Law Commission (ILC) bid, saying being associated with President Rodrigo Duterte did not make him unfit for the position.

The lawyers accused Roque of being an enabler of the Duterte government, which they said in their letter was behind extrajudicial killings, attacks on the rule of law and due process and unacceptable positions on human rights, justice, pandemic responses and good governance.

“As fellow lawyers, we are scandalized by his spins and reinvention of basic legal principles and concepts in his zealousness to repackage President Duterte’s pronouncements of questionable legal and constitutional bases,” they said in a letter to United Nations (UN) member-states on Nov. 8.

“Lamentably, Harry has rationalized extrajudicial killings and tolerated the weaponization of the law against activists, dissenters and the opposition,” they added.

Roque said there was no such thing as guilt by association.

“Tinututulan po nila tayo dahil ang pagiging spokesperson daw natin ay mayroon tayong guilt by association kay presidente. Unang-una, wala pong ganoon; there is no such thing as guilt by association,” Roque said in his press briefing.

Roque said the crimes President Rodrigo Duterte was being accused of perpetrating had yet to be proven.

“Ang preliminary investigation po ay laban sa drug war sa Pilipinas, ni hindi po ito laban kay Presidente Duterte, at ito po ay nasa preliminary investigation pa lang…dadaan pa po iyan sa butas ng karayom,” he said.

In September, the International Criminal Court greenlit a probe on drug war deaths as there was “reasonable basis” to believe that a crime against humanity had been committed in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019 in the context of Duterte’s deadly campaign against drugs.

The ILC is a UN body responsible for making recommendations that encourage “the progressive development of international law and its codification.”

It is composed of 34 members elected by the UN General Assembly every five years.

The elections are set for Nov. 12.

Several groups, including the Free Legal Assistance Group and the executive committee of the University of the Philippines Diliman, have balked at Roque’s ILC bid. John Ezekiel J. Hirro