THE “STATE of Lawless Violence” declared by President Rodrigo Duterte has “legal and factual basis,” government legal authorities said on Sunday.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd told The Manila Times the power of the President to declare a State of Lawless Violence is legally justified under the 1987 Constitution.
The bombing in Davao City, rampant killings and threats from groups that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State serve as factual basis to make such declaration, he said.
“The power of the President to declare a State of Lawlessness is legally justified under his constitutional authority to faithfully execute the laws, protect the people from lawless and criminal elements. Not to mention the rampant killings, and the [Islamic State] threat to commit terrorism,” Aguirre said.
Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta stressed that civil liberties are not suspended, but said the Public Attorney’s Office would be on “red alert” and provide free legal assistance to anyone who will be arrested without the assistance of a lawyer.
Acosta said Duterte was within the “calling out powers” of the President as commander in chief of the Armed Forces.
“The President has the discretion and it is within his powers. It has factual basis since there are persons not following the law. It is lawlessness,” she argued.
The PAO chief also said that after the declaration of the State of Lawless Violence, more police and soldiers could be deployed by the government. Hence, more checkpoints and a curfew could be imposed.
‘Calling out powers’
Aguirre pointed out the Chief Executive swore to defend the Constitution and protect the people from lawless violence.
The Cabinet official repeated previous clarifications by the Palace that the declaration of the State of Lawless Violence “is not Martial Law but a precautionary measure of the President as commander in chief to protect the people. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is constitutionally mandated to protect the people from lawlessness.”
“It is not martial law because the military is not being called to replace civilian authority, civil liberties are not impaired. In other words, it is just a declaration of State of Lawlessness, nothing more,” the DOJ chief added.
Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution states: “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.”
During the time of President Joseph Estrada, the Supreme Court declared as constitutional a presidential order on the Marines to assist the police at checkpoints to suppress lawless violence, in the case titled Integrated Bar of the Philippines vs Ronaldo Zamora.
In the 2006 case of Randy David vs President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the high tribunal upheld Presidential Proclamation 1017 declaring a state of national emergency.
The high court said the “only criterion for the exercise of the calling-out power is that “whenever it becomes necessary,” the President may call the Armed Forces to “prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.”
Also on Sunday, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo admitted President Duterte already had plans to declare a nationwide State of Lawless Violence even before the bombing incident in Davao City Friday night.
“Actually we are already in the planning stage. In fact, we are already drafting the proclamation,” Panelo said in a radio interview over DZBB.
Panelo said the President cited three serious issues that could justify the declaration, one of which is the illegal drug problem that has affected 98 percent of barangay (villages) in the country.
He noted that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency had estimated that two to three million Filipinos were addicted to drugs, and the number could be higher now.
The President believes there are already 3.7 million drug addicts in the country, which translates to 3.7 potential criminals, Panelo added.
“That is how serious the President looks at the drug problem in the country,” he said.