Duterte’s declaration of State of Lawlessness: What you need to know

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President Rodrigo Duterte's 'State of Lawless Violence' was a response to the imminent dangers of terrorism in the country. (image: CC0 Public Domain)

On Saturday, September 3, just hours after the tragic explosion in his home city, Davao,  President Rodrigo Duterte declared a “state of lawlessness” in the whole Philippines, citing a strong need to protect and ensure the safety of the public from threats of terrorism and other forms of extra judicial killings.

“I am declaring now a state of lawlessness. It is not martial law. It has nothing to do with the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. We go about but I said there will be checkpoints,” the president told reporters present at the scene.

Duterte added that this move will guarantee “coordinated efforts” between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the military in support to the government’s actions against terrorism and illegal drugs.

Under the Philippine constitution, this declaration is one of the special powers that the president of the republic has but it is not something that the public is too familiar with.

For this reason, the announcement resulted in a collective confusion and fear among netizens especially those who do not fully support the current administration.

However, according to the president, law-abiding citizens should not consider this as a move to restrict their freedom. Instead, it should be viewed as an action to protect the nation.

To keep you informed, we have arranged facts and bits of information that everyone should know about the recent declaration of ‘state of lawlessness’ in the Philippines.

Du30’s State of Lawless Violence

  • Under the 1987 constitution, the President is allowed to call on the Armed Forces to “prevent or suppress lawless violence” in the country or in regions where such is needed.
  • This is further stated in Section 18, Article VII of the Philippine Constitution:

The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.

  • It is considered the least ‘severe’ of the three (3) commander-in-chief powers granted by the constitution to the country’s current president.
  • Duterte’s declaration covers not only Mindanao as previously reported, but also the rest of the Philippines.
  • Under the state of lawlessness, there will be an increased presence of soldiers all over the country.
  • Military and police checkpoints will be placed in key cities and locations which are likely to be targeted by terrorists and criminal groups.
  • The declaration is reviewable by the Supreme Court through examining its legal as well as factual origin.
  • Duterte emphasized that this declaration will not suspend the Bill of Rights.
  • There will also be no suspension of the freedoms of the writ of Habeas Corpus – no individual will be put in jail without due process.
  • The privilege and freedom of expression and press will remain intact.
  • Due to the explosion in Davao, the former mayor/ current President Duterte ordered a lockdown in the whole city, allowing police and military personnel to search residences, vehicles and even suspicious individuals.
  • Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also declared a state of lawlessness but it was exclusively implemented in Davao city.

Not ‘Martial Law’

President Rodrigo Duterte stressed that although he is citing the third of the three provisions under Article VIII Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution, he is not declaring martial law.

The provision originally states that, the President of the Philippines has the power and authority to call on the Armed Forces to “prevent or suppress lawless violence, impose martial law, or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in case of invasion or rebellion”.

It is also emphasized that if there is a presence of an imminent or on-going threat, the president is presented with “a platter of graduated powers” to respond to the situation depending on its severity.

Duterte’s own declaration, however, will NOT impose these immediate orders other than calling on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to help him solve the current terrorist threat.

In addition, Ernesto Abella, the Presidential Spokesperson explained that the declaration is different from the existence of “invasion or rebellion”.

He assured that, “only if there is invasion or rebellion, and when public safety requires it, can he (Duterte) suspend the writ of habeas corpus or declare martial law.”

Duterte earlier discussed that he will never declare martial law unless such action is extremely necessary. One point is that, there will be no suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

However, curfews can be implemented if the severity of the situation heightens.

The president also pointed out that the public should not panic if they see an increased presences of soldiers and policemen in the streets as they are there for the people’s protection.

Military and police checkpoints will guard and monitor city boundaries for ‘hot spots’ and in other  selected areas in order to ensure stricter security measures.

PH State of Lawlessness in the past

President Rodrigo Duterte is not the first leader of the country to proclaim a state of ‘lawless violence’. However, he is the first one to issue this declaration given its kind.

It can be remembered that in 2003, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared the same provision exclusively for Davao city in response to the bombings which occurred just hours before her scheduled arrival to the city.

Ferdinand Marcos, the country’s late dictator infamous for his declaration of the Martial Law in 1972 invoked the highest and most severe point of the provision as a commander-in-chief.

Response against terrorism

A more detailed report on the said declaration is still yet to be issued by the president and his staff but the commander-in-chief assured that he will, by all means, terminate terrorists endangering the citizens of the country.

While the public is still in shock about everything that happened in a span of 24 hours, reports from different news agencies all say one thing: the Filipino people is under threat and we must all stand in solidarity.

President Duterte also stressed that he previously warned everyone about this, stating that since the all-out-war against the Abu Sayyaf is in full swing, we should expect more aggressive and desperate moves by the rebel group as a form of retribution.