Expat’s Guide: What is State of Lawlessness
IT’S NOT MARTIAL LAW. President Duterte declared a state of lawless violence last Saturday, September 3 after the bombing of a night market in Davao City. Screen grab from GMA News Facebook video
The recent events at a night market on Roxas St., Davao City has pushed things over the edge, forcing the government to put the country under a “state of lawless violence” or “state of lawlessness.”
People’s reactions on social media were varied, though most feared it was a precursor to Martial Law. Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan has questioned the need for the proclamation, while Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has come out and said the declaration might pave the way for Martial Law.
With so many comparisons, people are understandably confused, since it is the first time most of us have heard of a declaration of state of lawlessness. But what is it, really?
State of Lawlessness
According to law experts, President Duterte’s declaration of a “state of lawlessness”, or a State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence, is not, and should not be treated as a condition similar to Martial Law.
A state of lawlessness is defined as the President calling out the military to aid the police in suppressing violence. It does not do anything to change the status quo apart from the President being able to send out military personnel to act as peacekeepers, a role usually played by the police.
In his own words, President Duterte said “I am inviting now the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the military, and the police to run the country in accordance with my specifications.” It does not suspend the writ of habeas corpus, nor is it a precursor to Martial Law.
It’s also in accordance with the constitution, as stated in Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 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’s the 1st of three extraordinary powers given to the President as part of his duty to protect the country. The other two are the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus (no warrantless arrests) and the declaration of martial law.
What does this mean for us?
In its simplest terms, it only means increased visibility for police and military personnel. Nothing has changed in terms of how one can be arrested or detained.
We’re used to seeing the military in their camps, but under a state of lawlessness they will now be seen in vital areas much like we’re used to seeing cops. Guidelines have also been issued by the government in relation to Proclamation No. 55, s. 2016, or the declaration of a State of National Emergency on account of Lawless Violence in Mindanao.
These guidelines include the Department of National Defense and the Department of Interior and Local Government coordinating the deployment of additional forces from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to prevent what happened in Mindanao from happening to the rest of the country.
PNP Chief Dir. Gen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa has re-iterated that the same rules apply when making arrests. Constitutional rights of every individual (not just Filipino citizens) are to be respected at all times, and any personnel found violating these rights will be held administratively (might be a cause for them to lose their job), and criminally liable.
A warrantless arrest may only happen if:
● The person to be arrested has committed, is committing, or attempting to commit an offense in front of an arresting officer;
● An offense has just been committed and the arresting officer has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be arrested committed the offense;
● The person to be arrested is a prisoner who has escaped from prison (where he is serving his sentence) or jail (where he is temporarily confined while his case is being tried); or
● The person has voluntarily waived his rights against warrantless arrest.
Has it happened before?
Yes it has, though it is the first time it has been declared on a national scale. The last time a state of lawlessness was declared in 2003 by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This was after the bombings in Sasa Wharf took the lives of 16 people and wounded 46.
It was limited only to the city of Davao, but the conditions were exactly the same: increased visibility for police and armed forces.