A Statement of Truth and Gratitude

Last Monday, a number of Filipino politicians and lawyers objected to my candidacy to the International Law Commission. They invented or recycled various arguments against my candidacy.

Allow me to explain why their statement actually recognizes why I deserve to be a member of the Commission.

First, they level the charge that I have acted as the spokesman of the Philippine President, and have uttered statements consistent with the requirements of my job.

In reply I say, yes, I am doing my job as a public servant of my country and as the spokesman of its democratically-elected President. This is not a charge I deny but a charge I fulfill, because I serve my country and I obey the law. A public servant, such as a diplomat, lawyer, administrator or spokesman, does not pick and choose what policies he will implement. Policies are made by the people and their elected leaders, and a public servant follows them to the extent permitted by law. Otherwise, democracy and public order would be impossible.

Second, they declare that the President under whom I serve is facing investigation for alleged crimes by the International Criminal Court.

In reply I say, yes, the President is facing accusations. I also reiterate the principle I have long upheld in my decades-long service as a human rights advocate and lawyer: that every human being has human rights, including “the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence” (UDHR, Article 11), and the right to “a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law” (ICCPR, Article 14.1). Neither I nor my objectors may lawfully deny those rights to anyone, even to leaders they dislike.

Third, they accuse me of undermining international mechanisms for accountability and resolution of conflicts, and of “spinning” legal concepts in the process of doing my job.

In reply I say they are wrong. Throughout my career as a lawyer and human rights advocate, I have resolutely obeyed all institutions and rules for legal accountability. I have continued to do so as a public servant, expressing the views of the government in accordance with domestic and international law. This is not undermining or spinning rules and institutions, rather it is following the law, by advising my principal and executing my job in accordance with law, which includes understanding the contrary viewpoints on how law is interpreted and applied.

My candidacy for the International Law Commission is based on my broad expertise and experience as a lawyer, an activist, a teacher, a politician and as a public servant. I can bring to emerging issues of international law a perspective that is principled and practical. I know the laws that must be codified, the gaps where lex ferenda is evolved, the gray areas that are being clarified, and the competing interpretations of different legal traditions that should be reconciled. I also understand the political factors that both limit law and are shaped by law.

By leveling what they think are accusations, my objectors have implicitly acknowledged that I deserve to be part of the International Law Commission and its task of codifying and progressively developing international law. They have also recognized that I have done my job a lawyer and a public servant in a democratic country well. For this, I am grateful.