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    Tuesday, August 1, 2017

    International Relations Expert: Duterte’s war on drug justified by presidential and constitutional mandates

    Sass Rogando Sasot, an opinion columnist and socio-political critic recently published an article in Manila Times explaining how President Rodrigo Duterte’s actions, specifically his most scrutinized war on drugs is consistent or coherent to his presidential and even constitutional mandate. 

    “We have a President who rightfully recognized that we are not in a normal situation but in a “state of exception,” and he is acting accordingly, with a mandate from LOI 1 and our Constitution,” claimed Sasot in her article.

    The LOI1 according to her, is the Letter of Instruction 1 that was signed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on July 4, 2001. Also known as the “National Anti-Drugs Program of Action”, the LOI1 aims to “address the drug menace in the country. The said order, moreover, is still operational until this time.

    “LOI 1 declared the drug menace “Public Enemy No. 1 of the entire Filipino People” and the “No. 1 Threat to National Security.” The first mission that LOI 1 mandates is “to dismantle/neutralize all drug syndicates, producers, traffickers, pushers and their cohorts in the police/military/government office.” That is a pretty strong directive which befits its characterization of what the drug menace is. Thus, when Duterte said that he isn’t just “ordering the police to just (do) a few punitive actions” but to actually “destroy the apparatus of the illegal drug trade,” he was simply restating that mission," Sasot explained.

    Sass pointed out that Duterte’s critics, particularly those who fail to acknowledge the above-stated presidential mandate, are mere navel-gazers. And expressed that the real question should be: “Is Duterte still performing his duties consistent with his mandate?”

    Answering her own question, Sasot claimed that alongside the president’s obligation to defend and secure his people is his constitutional mandate to preserve human rights and prohibit its violation.

    However, Sasot affirmed that “human rights aspirations must be balanced against the imperatives of national security.”

    “The rule-of-thumb is that individual rights are supreme. However, there are exceptions to the rule. If protecting individual rights pose a risk to society, then the balance should be ruled in favor of national security. There is nothing sinister in this. It is just statecraft,” Sasot asserted.

    The journalist then continued as she laid out the differences between a normal and an exceptional situation which is the basis of determining what actions by the government must be done.

    “Are we in a state of normality or in a state of exception?” 

    Sasot then recalled that during the issuance of LOI1 in 2001 the number of drug users at that time was only about 1.7 million. However, when Duterte assumed office after his predecessor former president Benigno Aquino III, that number rose considerably between 3 to 4 million. 

    “If 1.7 million is already considered a national security threat, what then do we call 3 to 4 million?” Sasot asked rhetorically.

    “[Now] if you have millions of people violating a law and a government heavily infested with narco-politicians, can you still call this situation normal? That is already a state of exception…The state of exception is an essentially political concept. When a political order is in a state of exception, mere law enforcement-as-usual is no longer enough to protect, guarantee, and restore order and protect the population from threats to their security,” Sasot explained elaborately.

    Concluding her article, Sasot emphasized that the Philippines, given its drug-related demographics is currently facing a “national security crisis”-a problem that could have been prevented from getting worse if only the previous administration had dealt with it seriously. Now comes Duterte who ardently addresses this issue with accordance to his existing mandate as the Chief Executive. That, as how Sasot had implied, should be acknowledged in every critique fired against Duterte.

    “Our drug situation is a full-scale national security crisis, which have been treated in the past administration as if it was still “normal.” But it is not. It is rather a state of exception normalized by the neglect of duty by those who were mandated by law to protect us from national security threats. They did not do everything that was necessary to combat this national security threat. Now, we have a President who rightfully recognized that we are not in a normal situation but in a 'state of exception', and he is acting accordingly, with a mandate from LOI 1 and our Constitution,” Sasot concluded.

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