Using a threat of ‘lawless violence’ is persecution of Filipinos

When a nation and its peoples are smeared . . . [Photo source: CNN]

By JoeAm

President Duterte and his officials make frequent use of the term “lawless violence” as a reason to move Armed Forces troops here and there, and to justify an extension of martial law in Mindanao. We get the sense that the lawless violence is so bad the entire nation could be put under martial law at any time.

That will be another reason for investors to flee the Philippines, for sure.

It seems to me violence in the Philippines today is no worse than it has been through all the post-Marcos presidencies. It is a poor nation, after all. People who are desperate or needy or greedy do desperate and needy things. It’s like insanity or auto deaths or any other social characteristic, a certain percentage of the population is prone to violence and crookery . . . the latter being bribing, thieving, fixing, cheating, plundering, not paying taxes, and a thousand ways to up the income when the pay scales are barely a notch above dirt . . . while a whole lot of other people seem to be fat and happy and living well.

That is disenfranchisement, a source of great resentment, when others can be seen getting ahead, but one has no hope for a better life for oneself . . .

I personally don’t buy the “lawless violence” line as anything but a pragmatic manipulation of media and people to gain authority and enrichment.

Think about it. Who are the perpetrators of violence in the Philippines?

  • Religious extremists (Muslim rebels and terrorists)
  • Political extremists (communists and New People’s Army – NPA)
  • Drug lords (angling for territory and markets)
  • Drug users and poor people trying to get money (disenfranchised Filipinos)
  • Police officers and others employed by the State to intimidate and kill

The political opposition is not a perpetrator of violence. They ‘destabilize’ the nation with words. It is obviously a shaky or insecure nation to be so easily destabilized.

The Catholic Church is not a perpetrator of violence, even if President Duterte thinks all bishops should be beheaded. (Who is the terrorist in that little exchange of ideas?) The Church argues for peace and civility.

Maria Ressa is not a perpetrator of violence, nor Senator Trillanes, nor former Chief Justice Sereno, nor jailed Senator De Lima. The President wants them in jail for other reasons.

So I conclude this idea of lawless violence is as fake as the legal cases against President Duterte’s political irritants.

The threat of ‘lawless violence’ to me seems more like a persecution of Filipinos. It’s like a threat of beheading to bishops, or threat of jailing to political opponents. It is punishment beyond what the facts say is necessary. It is a threat to intimidate and quiet any unrest that may be bubbling just beneath the surface. It is not inspirational, by any stretch of imagination. It is a dark force.

Let’s step away from this line of thinking to consider what democracy is about. Democracy generates a huge centerline of decent, fair, earnest people with progressive ambitions. The open debate, the political system, the settling of issues by voting . . . these mechanisms tamp down the extremist fringe players and movements in favor of a moderate, steady, productive enrichment and defense of the nation.

The Philippines is a functioning democracy and does a decent job of running a set of laws, a form of politics, and voting that SHOULD generate progressive achievements, but it has its distortions because of corruption, a political will that is not other oriented but self-dealing, and a sensationalist media captured by the political whims of the day. Actually, there has been a moderate and progressive centerline ever since President Cory Aquino took over from President Marcos. That’s why the economy, its current dearth of investors aside, is chugging along well, powered by remittances from overseas workers, consumer spending, and a lot of good, earnest work that gets done in spite of all the political gameplaying. Schools have been built, storms recovered from, roads widened, and extremists fought. These are all “due course” for a working democracy.

The problem today is that the President is an extremist, and so he is re-directing the centerline of the Philippines toward federalism and its promotion of favored dynasties . . . of which his would be one . . .  and/or alignment with China for economic benefits after other investors have been chased away. He has made those who used to follow the democratic centerline into bad guys. Into extremists.

Thus the need for threats of response to ‘lawless violence’ to keep them in line.

“But Joe! Here is an article that says crime is up!” 1.4 million Filipino families fell victim to common crimes in Q3 – SWS

If there is culpability for an increase in lawless crime, it rests not with the people, but with the Administration:

  • If drug usage is up, and the petty crime associated with it, that is because the Administration has failed to stop at least 20 billion in shabu from entering the Philippines, flooding the market and driving down prices.
  • If killings are up, that is because the PNP uses undue force that makes people scared enough to fight back, and the President regularly incites killing in his remarks.
  • If poverty-driven petty crime is up, it is because the administration has failed to reduce poverty and increase meaningful jobs; indeed, inflation is hitting the poor hardest.
  • If corruption is up, it is because the Administration is soft on corruption and throws money and appointments around for favors.
  • If Muslim extremism is persistent, it is because the Administration has pushed American resources away and failed in Marawi and elsewhere in its ground campaigns.
  • If the NPA recruitment is up, it is because the Administration has no mercy for disadvantaged people such as the Lumads, brands any outspoken opponent a deadly enemy, not dealt with provincial poverty, and treated opposition leadership without respect (Ocampo arrest).

From the Duterte Administration’s viewpoint, it is “them vs us”. The government is not of, for, and by all citizens, just those the government favors or can use.

Well, the natural outcome, as ordinary people are made into extremists, is that they are forced themselves into extreme acts. So violent crime goes up, largely inspired or abetted by a President who believes in violence as a solution. Petty crime goes up because people have nowhere else to turn.

If the Administration seeks to reduce lawless violence, it needs to look at the primary factors: poverty, failed drug war, and the President’s unfortunate words and policies that treat the people of the Philippines with scorn.

Using the threat of lawless violence to extract obedience and support is a form of intimidation that is not a true reflection of what the Philippines is, or who Filipinos are. The nation is not violent. Its people are not violent.

To call them that is a form of persecution that puts the blame of the Administration’s failed policies and programs on the people. On the innocent.


54 Responses to “Using a threat of ‘lawless violence’ is persecution of Filipinos”
  1. marvel reyes says:

    “If there is culpability for an increase in lawless crime, it rests not with the people, but with the Administration.”

    The conclusion is too simplistic. It only caters to those who are already biased against the Duterte administration (and to the simpleminded). If the writer really intends to make the issue of lawless violence (in the PH context) understandable to readers, he would approach it more objectively and come up with something that makes more sense.

    • karlgarcia says:

      Any sensical suggestions?

    • You are always welcome to submit a guest article to present it in a way that makes sense to you, and we can see if readers agree.

    • Micha says:

      @marvel reyes

      You are neglectful of the fact that it is the state that is most capable of, and possess resources to, perpetrate violence.

      Has this administration used those resources to inflict violence in a lawless manner? You bet. Thousands were murdered by this administration in its ill-conceived and what now appears to be fraudulent war on drugs, depriving victims of any due or legal process.

      That the bully in Malacanang could only turn on the weak and the poor but would cower in fear when confronted by a bigger bully is a testament of its moral depravity.

      So no, the conclusion of this article stands. This administration is the paramount perpetrator of lawless violence.

    • sonny says:

      @ marvel reyes

      A reply would contribute to a healthy balance to the substance of the subject. Truly.

  2. edgar lores says:

    1. There is lawless violence.

    2. It is being perpetrated by the administration.

    3. The lawlessness consists in the administration non-observance of the rule of law.

    4. The violence consists of :

    4.1. The threats of intimidation against various business entities (Inquirer, Rappler, ABS-CBN)
    4.2. The weaponization of the law against various individuals (Senator De Lima, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Senator Trillanes, Maria Ressa)
    4.3. The state-sponsored killings and the EJKs.
    4.4. The undemocratic push toward charter change and Federalization.
    4.5. The impunity in the rendering of injustice (the freeing of Arroyo, Enrile, Jinggoy, Bong).

    5. The officials of the administration should recognize that lawless violence is being brought about by their will and through their own hands.

    5.1. As respected columnist Randy David has averred, the President has blood on his hands.

    • A reader on Facebook asked if there is such a thing as “lawful violence”, and I answered “war”. He meant, I think, that the Administration’s case of lawless violence is a nonsensical term. It is, but the question reveals that what is going on, which is basically the idea of the State imposing LAWFUL violence, or martial law, against the “lawless violence” that is a fiction built fallaciously upon incidents, some of which are not even violent (criticism from the opposition, students, Jollibee, and others who want a civil society).

  3. karlgarcia says:

    This country is very punitive. We have laws, we penalize, people who do crime do the time(most do the time without ding charged but…)

    True that the citizens lack self discipline,responsibility and accountability but to declare them as whole sale lawless ….(I don’t know what to say)

    I read how they treat prisoners in Norway, they do time in ordinary jails then after a few years they are transferred into jail paradise island, where they are free to move around, and could escape if they have no conscience. There are not much recedevists and repeat offenders.

    When can that happen here?

  4. madlanglupa says:

    This government wants to maintain Martial Law throughout the entire island, and yet I still get reports of crime and worse crime occurring even in PRRD’s bailiwick of Davao City and environs, such as persistent drug trading, rape, and even murder and dismemberment.

    I wonder if this government, by design or intent, trying to create an atmosphere of heightened violence and theft that once the people reach a certain critical level where they’re literally begging to stop the crime wave, they would then impose Martial Law on a national scale, replete with restrictions, lese-majeste, distractions from regime-controlled entertainment and news, and of course, carte-blance reinterpretation of laws and even the Constitution under either a restored Marcos or Arroyo.

    • I don’t think they need to await the public’s demand for martial law. They just need to soften the acceptance, dull objection, and give trolls a reason to justify it. They are almost there. The only barrier is a Senate that still has a sense of martial law being for outright rebellion rather than political objection and localized firefights.

  5. arlene says:

    On its own, this administration is finding more reasons to declare martial law.

  6. Padre Florentino, Filipino priest in Rizal’s El Fili, especially the first para fits the topic:

    “The glory of saving a country cannot be given to one who has contributed to its ruin. You believed that what crime and iniquity had stained and deformed, more crime and more iniquity could cleanse and redeem. This was error. Hate only creates monsters; crime, criminals; only love can work wonders, only virtue can redeem. If our country is some day to be free, it will not be through vice and crime, it will not be through the corruption of its sons, some deceived, others bribed; redemption presupposes virtue; virtue, sacrifice, and sacrifice, love!

    We must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual, loving what is just, what is good, what is great, to the point of dying for it.

    As long at the Filipino people do not have a sufficient vigor to proclaim, head held high and chest bared, their right to a life of their own in human society, and to guarantee it with their sacrifices, with their very blood; as long as we see our countrymen feel privately ashamed, hearing the growl of their rebelling and protesting conscience, while in public they keep silent and even join the oppressor in mocking the oppressed; as long as we see them wrapping themselves up in their selfishness and praising with forced smiles the most despicable acts, begging with their eyes for a share of the booty, why give them independence?”

    (how many of those cheering Bong Revilla got anything out of it? Binay at least gave cake.)

    • Rizal understood and spoke through his characters, Padre Florentino being a perfect example. It is fascinating to me that the nation considers Rizal to be a special character, but maybe 1 in a million know why.

  7. chemrock says:

    Philippines is a swamp of legal mumbo jumbos. There is no concept or doctrine of lawless violence anywhere in the world.

    The befuddlement of the Facebook commenter Joe mentioned is understandable. As to the idea that war is a legal violence, I ask was My Lai massacre legal?

    Duterte could’nt utter the word anarchy, nor talk about an increase in violent crimes. Because that implies a failure of his administration to maintain law and order. Saying there is ‘lawless violence’ in the country puts matters in a different perspective. He sees the problem, he is going to solve the problem.

    Has there been an increase in violent crimes? As Joe indicated, it is basically same-o same-o, the increase in violent crimes is basically ‘political violence’. Now that is not legal mumbo jumbo. ‘Political violence’ means violence perpetrated by people or governments to achieve political goals. And that’s exactly what’s going on, under the cloak of drug war.

    The use of ‘lawless violence’ is simply a Filipino legal prequisite for a president to call in the army to assist the police in maintaining law and order. In other words, it is a pre-requisite to declare a state of emergency. How many Filipinos are aware there are law makers calling for ‘lawless violence’ to be included in the constitution as grounds for the president to impose martial law? In other words, simply pronounce there is ‘lawless violence’ and the president can have his martial law imposed.

    There are a pronouncements that businessmen and investors hate. One of these is ‘state of emergency’. It’s a sure winner for Philippines if the intention is to drive away business and jobs and destabilise the economy.

    • Bringing up the incident of the My Lai massacre . . . a tragedy and disgrace by any measure . . . as a counter to the argument that war is legalized violence would be considered, I suppose, a straw man fallacy, drawing emotionalism to a side argument rather than reason to the main argument. Wars are legal violence, undertaken to do such things as stop Jews from being incinerated and Great Britain from being invaded and Singapore from being a Japanese colony today. Wars are not nice because humans, in violent settings, are not nice. But the answer to the question, is there such a thing as lawful violence, would be “war”, and even such domestic instances as police firing upon armed civilians who are engaged in violent crimes.

      • The following pdf file presents the International Red Cross elaboration on violence and use of force, under various legal frameworks. I trust you will find it reasonably clear and authoritative.

        Click to access icrc_002_0943.pdf

        • edgar lores says:

          From the pdf on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):

          1. “Article 6.1 of the ICCPR states that: ‘Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.’”

          1.1. The Philippines is a signatory to the ICCPR. Signed in 1966 and ratified in 1986.
          1.2. China signed in 1988 but has not ratified it.

          2. “Article 9.1 of the ICCPR states that: ‘Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.’” [Bolding mine.]

          2.1. This confirms my assumption, in the last blog, that individual freedom is one of the three highest spiritual values alongside with equality and justice.
          2.2. Note that China has signed the convention. Therefore, she cannot plead ignorance.
          2.3. That she has limited individual freedom in the past is not an acceptable defence in the name of cultural relativity. From my perspective, this is just cultural conditioning. After all, these spiritual values were not “discovered” until the birth of America.

      • chemrock says:

        My ref to My Lai is that “legality’ is a razor thin line, even in war. There are terms of engagement, specific orders, proportionality, Red Cross conventions etc. And here in Philippines, AFP engagement under state of emergency legalised because of the ‘lawless violence’ – somewhat similar to war (because it’s under the constitution), will then acts of the soldiers be ‘lawful’?

        • Yes, abuses are common in war, testing the legal and moral underpinnings of the fighting. But declared wars are legal. No lines or equivocations. The Philippines is declaring “war” on its own citizens, which is the point of the blog. That’s bad business, it seems to me. Rather an exercise built on fake premises. The Constitution states Martial Law can only be deployed in case of lawless violence, rebellion, or invasion, which makes even the Mindanao declaration suspect. The nation is not under any special duress from violence any more than it has been for years, it seems to me.

  8. karlgarcia says:
    Durerte says he has enough powers to stop lawless violence so no need for Martial Law but he is extending ML in Mindanao.

    I can’t wait for post Duterte period.

  9. Sup says:

    Maybe you can use this for your tomorrow blog, the rats ratting each other now…

  10. NHerrera says:

    ‘Lawless violence’ or threat of it is persecution of Filipinos seems a truism to me. But with this important thing described in the blog article: the Administration which is supposed to be on the side of the Constitution and the Law is the one undertaking under whatever guise, or inspiring, the violence — for purposes not difficult to discern.

  11. Micha says:

    Meanwhile, mass protests in France which at times also turned violent resulted in victory for the protesters as Macron caved in to their initial demands. Democracy in action, holding power to act and be accountable – a stark contrast to the despotic whims of that maniac from Davao.

    • NHerrera says:

      That is a measured thing, I believe. In Democracies with strong institutions such as the Justice System, the event in France is one recourse. [I wonder though how a country such as Australia will handle the matter — meaning among others, whether or not the Australians will resort to a violent protest. The French seems higher in the emotional scale than the Australians.] In Russia, China the consequence of such protest is most probably dire. In a similar vein, the PH with its weak institution and the current climate, such protest will likely invite the imposition of Martial Law.

      • Micha says:

        The Yellow Vest is an open protest movement with no particular leader. The violence that you saw were initiated by “casseurs” or thugs and anarchists who infiltrated the rallies, not by the mainstream movement itself which has the support of 80% of the people across the country – farmers, students, housewives, truck drivers, ordinary employees who, for the most part, would rather opt for a peaceful street demonstration.

        The movement is a protest against the neo-liberal policies of Emmanuel Macron. I would rather focus on that issue instead of quibbling about the “violence” which, in any way, might have been necessary to get the attention of the selectively deaf politicians..

        • NHerrera says:

          Quibbling I may have, but here is the logic I used:

          A –> B

          A valid course of action with reasonable chance of success, in a functioning democracy.

          But this is not necessarily true (good chance of success) because of the circumstance or “interference” of a factor(s) in other countries.

          Further, I sayeth not.

          • Micha says:

            But of course there will be different policy response from different leaders in different countries around the world, not to mention the circumstantial triggering event. That doesn’t mean there’s no commonality in the universal struggle for fairness or how might reasonable people in a supposedly democratic state deal with the issue of extreme inequality.

      • “The French seems higher in the emotional scale than the Australians.”

        France has been described as “permanent revolution” by some.

  12. NHerrera says:


    Speaking of “violence,” here is a related infographic. I find it interesting that the Democracies are the largest arms producers.

  13. edgar lores says:

    Congratulations to Maria Ressa!

    A 2018 Person of the Year, alongside with murdered Saudi Jouranlist Jamal Khashoggi, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo – currently imprisoned in Myanmar – and the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland.

    Time said, “In the Philippines, a 55-year-old woman named Maria Ressa steers Rappler, an online news site she helped found, through a superstorm of the two most formidable forces in the information universe: social media and a populist President with authoritarian inclinations. Rappler has chronicled the violent drug war and extrajudicial killings of President Rodrigo Duterte that have left some 12,000 people dead, according to a January estimate from Human Rights Watch. The Duterte government refuses to accredit a Rappler journalist to cover it, and in November charged the site with tax fraud, allegations that could send Ressa to prison for up to 10 years.”

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