A stupid proposition
The Cebu City police’s order to its personnel to arrest five drug suspects a day isn’t news when considering President Rodrigo Duterte’s standing order for the police to be relentless in its war on drugs to the point of shooting down any drug suspect who resists arrest.
What is news, and disturbing at that, is President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark about suspending the writ of habeas corpus in order to pave the way for warrantless arrests of persons that, in this case, are deemed to be involved in one way or another in the illegal drugs trade.
In pushing for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, President Duterte said, “The problem here is there is no obedience of the law, and sometimes the rule of law becomes a stupid proposition.”
The President prefaced this assessment with his usual long-winded retelling of his experience as Davao City mayor and prosecutor; and what he is essentially telling the Filipino people is that, try as he might, he needs carte blanche authority to meet his six-month extension to eliminate the drug menace.
As if the mounting casualty count isn’t enough, we also have to deal with the growing congestion of drug suspects in the jails to the detriment of other inmates charged with other serious crimes.
If the writ of habeas corpus — the person’s right to report unlawful detention to the court — is suspended, then law enforcers can simply throw anyone they suspect behind bars for an indefinite period of time without needing a court order to do so.
That the President may have been compelled to make his call in light of the Senate justice committee hearings that showed police having to secure a search warrant in Samar rather than Leyte province for that infamous raid that killed Albuera Mayor Roland Espinosa is not sufficient grounds for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
Even his Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had to backtrack and cite that the only time the government can suspend the writ of habeas corpus is if the country is being invaded or if there is rebellion, two scenarios that remain remote as of press time.
But even if he does get his way, the President would eventually have to use the military camps to house the more than one million drug suspects who he claims are living in the country right now.
In justifying his call for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the President cited the need to “innovate the law” to allow government to use everything in its disposal, including the kitchen sink, to deal with the drug menace.
But aside from his call for the return of the death penalty, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus opens the floodgates to abuse of authority by the state’s law enforcers who can now freely jail anyone they suspect of wrongdoing without an iota of evidence to back up their accusations.
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