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[Y-SPACE] A Ticket to Tyranny: Duterte's Dismissal on the Rule of Law
By Jenna Marie Lopez
When someone possesses a gun, they feel a strong sense of bravado and power. This opens up the path to violence, where killing becomes an option. Human life becomes seemingly cheap whenever someone decides to pull the trigger. Only the sounds of a gunshot can be heard and the bullets remain, as it stifles the rule of law.
Despite the worsening situation under the pandemic, the Philippines continues to fall into a pit of impunity and tyranny under the Duterte Administration. Killings, usually led by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), became a daily occurrence in the country, as unjustified and wrong as it is. What started as an unlawful national campaign on “War on Drugs” ended up as bloodshed for Filipinos, painting the whole country in red.
It is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, Section 1 of Article III that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” This signifies that the state abides by the Rule of Law... But, does the current government uphold it?
The policies and actions of the government towards the public have made it apparent that the justice system in the country is deteriorating, and our protection for the rule of law has been plummeting ever since President Rodrigo Duterte’s reign for lawlessness started. For an administration that disregards the protection of human rights, and where an iron-fist leadership is evident, it is not impossible for the rule of law in the country to take a deeper nosedive. We can’t help but to question, who does the law protect? And will justice ever be prevalent in this country?
The Law may be superior yet it exists equally for everyone. As an independent and democratic country, the Rule of Law is an unprejudiced gift and is crucial for bringing fairness to all. To make this happen, it is the responsibility of lawyers and public officials to make the law synonymous with justice. However, for ruling tyrants, puppets, and lawyers under the Duterte Administration, it is nothing but a mere object of interest that can be manipulated to their liking. Despite a low rank of No. 112, in the category of “criminal justice” in the 2020 World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index, President Rodrigo Duterte seems unaffected by this. For the Duterte administration, the process doesn’t matter, as long as the goal is fulfilled. Killing may be a crime, and red-tagging might oppose one’s rights. But if it’s their doing, it is for the “glory” and “betterment” of the country. Although truthfully, it is just a manifestation of their abuse of power.
One precedent of the peril of the rule of law is the use of the Anti-Terror Law to silence the administration’s critics and oppositions. Not only is it broadly defined, but it also suppresses our freedom to express ourselves. Additionally, it further strengthens the administration’s tyrant-like rule by weaponizing the crackdowns to muffle activists and critics. However, for Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, the law will cause no misinterpretation, as terrorism is clearly defined in it.
During these times of turbulence, lawyers are expected to redress the grievances brought by crimes and corruption. The President himself, who's a supposed lawyer, should be the exemplary one who is to abide by the Constitution and respect the Rule of Law. But, it is blatantly being disregarded with his current actions. Lawmakers and lawyers like Mr. Panelo, who would rather work for the President than the country, are now only puppets whose strings are being constantly pulled and maneuvered.
For the other lawyers and officials who work for the Duterte regime, is the mockery and contempt against the jurisprudence a lawyer is supposed to do? Is trampling against the Constitution worth it? Was the fall from being a law practitioner to a bootlicker worth it?
They, who have practiced law, threw away their years and knowledge for their self-interest. For them, the jurisprudence is worth trampling on as long as they wield their power.
Our journey to a tyrant empire is not so far as it seems. The promises of democracy for the state will be long gone as long as tactless dogs and puppets continue to rule the country. However, there are still numerous lawyers and believers in the Rule of Law out there. They will certainly be the ones who will use the Law to expel the pinnacle of evil.
After all, the law exists and will ALWAYS exist for justice to prevail.
JM Lopez is a 3rd year Political Science student in Colegio de San Juan de Letran. She is currently the Minister for Socio - Political Affairs of The Letran Politicvs, an organization for Political Science students in Letran.
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