State of lawlessness? What is that?

The tweets that greeted me in the morning was “state of lawlessness”. What’s that? Tweet after tweet, I saw the same question , so I started searching on twitter for more information . It was Dean Bocobo that led me to that particular 1987 Constitutional provision , Article VII, Section 18:

state of lawlessness

“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.”

PIGLASAPAT, or the Pinag-isang Lakas ng Samahan ng mga Progresibong Atenista came out with an infographic.

declaration of state of lawlessness

It is clear that there is no suspension of the habeas corpus and it is not synonymous to martial law. But the President may call out the armed forces of the state to prevent or suppress lawless violence such as terrorism. as one of his powers as the Commander-in-Chief.

The next common question that kept popping up was “is it martial law?”.

President Rodrigo Duterte said that “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 speculation that it is like martial law continued on until Presidential spokesperson Abella pointed out the difference between state of lawlessness and martial law. It did not help that there were conflicting statements on the coverage of the state of lawlessness .

I got even more confused . Was it just for Mindanao or the rest of the country?

The twitter account of the Presidential Communication Office issued three tweets, deleted two others and finally said “the coverage of the state of lawless violence will include not only Mindanao but also the rest of the nation”

if there are conflicting statements on the scope of the state of lawlessness , media should  stick with the statement of the official spokesperson . What really proved useful to me was the clarification from Atty. Tony Lavinia , “Making sense of Duterte’s declaration of state of lawlessness “.  He explains that “the provision presupposes that there is an imminent or ongoing threat to public order or national security. To address the threat, the President is provided “a platter of graduated powers” to deal with the situation in accordance to its severity. Marcos used the martial law power in 1972 and Arroyo did the same in 2009 but limited to Maguindanao after the Ampatuan massacre. Both Estrada and Arroyo used the calling out powers which is what Duterte is now invoking with this declaration of state of lawlessness.”

The next question that I pondered during the day is if  the state of lawlessness is justified.  I see a lot of support on twitter and facebook.

I have my reservations. It was Duterte who said that these “are extraordinary times….There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extrajudicial killings, and there seems to be environment of lawlessness, lawless violence.” The extrajudicial killing is still a big question mark because I don’t see reports of the investigation. Leland Dela Cruz on twitter said “the scarier state of lawlessness is when the people entrusted to enforce the law break the laws they are supposed to enforce.

In times like these, one needs to be sensitive to the needs of the people. My heart goes out to the victims . I condemn the violence and death of innocent lives. The Davao bombing is not limited to Davao. It is against all of us.  But I am not comfortable with the “state of lawlessness” especially if it is linked to the drug war and extrajudicial killings. It sounds indefinite unless there is an Executive Order to define the scope of the state of lawlessness.  It becomes more disturbing when Duterte’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo in an interview with CNN cited the drug menace, as the first reason.

The reasons for the declaration of the state of lawlessness are anchored on the following grounds. We have a drug menace, which is all over the country. 98 barangays have been infiltrated, and there have been extra-judicial killings related to drugs. Number two, criminality is still ongoing. Number 3, there is terrorism. And Number 4, the Abu Sayyaf problem. Because of all these, the President decided to apply the provisions of the Constitution, which states that when necessary, the President may call the armed forces to suppress and prevent lawless violence.

Like President Duterte said, they cannot do it alone and is  calling  on the people to be vigilant. We must be vigilant in what we say and do for the love of the Philippines. People’s lives depend on it.  I am in support of the government’s role in using its powers to protect the country and always within the boundaries of the Philippine Constitution.

Do you support President Duterte’s declaration of a “state of lawlessness”?


This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)