Domondon: State of National Emergency due to Lawless Violence

PRESIDENT Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte has broken new ground with his declaration of a state of national emergency based or due to the lawless violence that is apparently happening in Mindanao.

This is in direct response to the terrorist bombing last September 2, 2016 of a popular and populated night market in Davao City that caused at least 14 deaths and injured 70 others. There is no other way to interpret the incident other than an act by as yet unknown suspects to cause havoc and maximum damage against the civilian population in Davao, and while the motive remains unclear it falls on the president to respond quickly and decisively to resolve the problem.

Thus, Proclamation No. 55 which the president signed on September 4, 2016 before flying to Laos to attend the ASEAN Summit. In the whereas portions of the said proclamation it can be clearly seen that the declaration of a national state of emergency was a direct result of the bombing that occurred in Davao City as well as perhaps other incidents of mayhem in the Southern region that resulted to a so called “State of Lawless Violence” in Mindanao.

Now one may ask, can the president declare a state of national emergency over the whole archipelago on account of lawless violence in one particular area or region of the country?

Well the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides the instance when the president may avail of his so called military power – among his other powers – and that is enunciated in Section 18 of Article VII of the said law which 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. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.”

Take note that the said provision of the constitution allows two situations where the president can invoke his military power and call out the armed forces of the country and that is one, in order to suppress lawless violence, and two, in the event of invasion or rebellion. In the case of invasion or rebellion and when public safety requires it the president can even suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the entire nation or a portion thereof under martial law. Evidently when it is merely lawless violence that needs to be suppressed then there is no need for the president to declare martial law or suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, but can just call out the armed forces (both the military and the police) to resolve the situation.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution also does not clearly state that in order for the president to call out the armed forces to suppress lawless violence he has first to declare a state of national emergency.

So why the need to declare a state of national emergency when the problem seems to be located only in Mindanao? Proclamation No. 55 seems to provide a clue behind the justification of such declaration when it stated in one of its whereases that, “based on government intelligence reports, there exists credible threats of further terror attacks and other similar acts of violence by lawless elements in other parts of the country, including metropolitan areas”.

There you have it, in one proclamation the president was able to declare a national state of emergency based solely on lawless violence that has happened in Davao City and other parts of Mindanao and based also on some apparent credible threat of future violence in other parts of the archipelago. At this time, the only thing that we can do is to observe closely how things will developed with the country now under a national state of emergency and to be very vigilant in protecting our civil rights.

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