MANILA, Philippines – Following the Roxas Night Market blast in Davao City, Friday night, which left 14 dead and 68 people wounded, President Rodrigo Duterte has verbally declared a state of lawless violence over the nation and has announced that the formal order will be out “soon.”
Nevertheless, in the absence of the formal proclamation, the president’s chief legal counsel, Atty. Sal Panelo has said that the President’s verbal order is already in force.
Although government officials have reiterated that pronouncing a state of lawlessness over the entire country does not equate to a declaration of Martial Law, this hasn’t stopped Filipinos from wondering whether the declaration will eventually lead to Martial Law or has a semblance of it.
Legal experts and government officials have recently clarified what it means to be in a state of lawless violence and why this has nothing to do with Martial Law. According to Fr. Ranhillo Aquino, dean of the San Beda Graduate School of Law, the most important points are:
- A state of lawlessness can stay in effect for an indefinite period of time.
- It has no immediate or direct effect on citizens and their rights.
- It alerts the military to the possibility that the president may ask them to aid the police in enforcing the law.
- There may be an increase in check points and curfews set.
- A searching officer at a checkpoint cannot forcibly open the gloves compartment or baggage compartment of a moving vehicle. This requires consent from the driver.
- During a request for a search at a checkpoint, it’s better to cooperate than arouse suspicions.
- Martial Law is only called for when the country is under a state of rebellion and invasion, and that public security calls for Martial Law. If the military is able to quell the rebellion immediately, there is no need to declare Martial Law.
- Martial Law involves a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. This means any individual may be arrested or seized by authorities without warrants from the courts.
- Presently, there is no factual basis for invasion or rebellion in the country.
- The declaration of the state of lawlessness can be a prelude to the president asking congress for a grant of emergency powers.
This is not the first time that a Philippine president has declared a state of lawless violence after a hostile attack. In 2003, then President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo made a similar declaration in 2003, also in Davao City, after bombings took place outside three mosques.
Nevertheless, more than 48 hours after the president’s announcement and subsequent clarification, talk of Martial Law continue to flood social media.
Suspicions of conspiracy abound, and some have said that the administration is conditioning the public to accept a state of Martial Law.
In her opinion piece, Raissa Robles has raised questions why Malacañang official, Peter Tiu Lavina, on his Facebook account, accused the “political opposition (of) providing the brains and hecklers” in “collusion” or conspiracy with the Abu Sayyaf in bombing the night market in Davao City, hours after the blast and without presenting any evidence to substantiate his claims.
Over the weekend, online reports have also come out quoting senator and staunch administration critic Leila de Lima as saying: “It could be a strategy of Duterte forces to provide reason to declare Martial Law. Davao is not the safest place after all.” De Lima denied the statement, saying that these had been maliciously attributed to her as part of the disinformation campaign “designed to discredit her.”
Finally, in a radio interview on Sunday morning, Panelo admitted that two drafts were being prepared (by himself and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea) to declare the state of lawless violence even prior to the Davao explosion. The purpose was to more effectively address the fight against drugs and rampant criminality, and that the Davao blast simply hastened the Executive’s decision to make the declaration sooner.
These factors, coupled with incidents of extra judicial killings and summary executions – in fact, the most recent incident involves three killed summary execution style at a Las Pinas City checkpoint on Sunday morning – have not alleviated people’s concerns over the probability that Martial Law may still be looming on the horizon.
Though this is not the case at this point in time, it’s very important that citizens should be aware that they should comply with curfews and cooperate willingly during searches at checkpoints, without forgetting that search officers are not allowed to violate their rights or force searches on their homes or vehicles without their consent.