State of lawlessness is different from a martial law. This is my answer when someone at the firm asked me if the country will be placed under martial law after President Duterte declared a state of lawlessness in Davao that marred the country last September 2, 2016. The fear that the country will be placed under martial law is understandable considering the political history that left many Filipinos scarred until this time. In order to shed light into this issue, it is important to understand the difference between the two within the legal purview. A state of lawlessness pertains to the condition where there is no regard for the law or situations where there is unbridled conduct or behavior that equates to unruly condition or violence. Its implication is under the state of lawlessness the President may call more Armed Forces to provide more stringent security to places where there is lawlessness.
This power of the President emanates from the Constitutional provision embodied under Article VII, Section 18 where “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.” This, however, cannot be construed as equivalent to the declaration of a Martial Law. It is worth noting that only under the state of invasion and rebellion that the President of the Philippines may lawfully declare the country under Martial Law.
Under the state of lawlessness, the armed forces or the military will be allowed to exercise punitive action to prevent violence or acts of terrorism. This power of the President to declare a state of lawlessness is justified to reinforce the security of the country and to protect its citizens against lawlessness and violence. The military forces are still under the mandate to observe due process and uphold human rights along the process of executing their duties to protect the country.
In contrast, when the President declares a Martial Law when the public safety requires it, the armed forces or military will be authorized to make arrests without the need of court intervention. This is because the effect of Martial Law results in the suspension of the privilege of habeas corpus (note: it is merely suspended temporarily not exceeding sixty days, unless it is revoked or extended by the Congress voting jointly by a vote of at least the majority of its members).
The declaration of the Martial Law is without prejudice to the right of the citizens to seek redress from the Supreme Court to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the Martial Law and the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Moreover, the Constitution provides that the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus will only be applied against persons charged with invasion or rebellion. The declaration of Martial Law will have the effect of calling the military to overtake civilian authority which is not the case in the declaration of a state of lawlessness in Davao City.
The mere effect of the declaration of a state of lawlessness is there will be more military and armed forces called upon to enforce the law, conduct check points and other security measures deemed necessary to ensure public safety. Civil rights will not be impaired and the security forces deployed will still be bound by the Constitutional provisions of due process and respect of human rights and will be still liable in case of any infractions of the law in the conduct of their duties.