Thursday, August 25, 2016

Police Power and Due Process

This is Part 3 of a series of guest posts entitled "The Constitution and Cardboard Justice", by my friend and churchmate, Goya Pableo. To read the previous articles, click on the links below.

Part 1
An offense done against a person is considered done against the State, much like every sin we’ve committed is, in totality, a sin against God.

We already know the basic concept of human rights and due process. Now, we’ll look at the State’s sovereignty and due process, zooming in on how our policemen are carrying out their mandate in this war against illegal drugs.
Part 2

‘Police Power’ and Due Process

‘Police power’ (not to be confused with the power of policemen) is inherent in any State, describing its authority to enact laws for the public welfare. The State’s sovereignty relies greatly on this inherent power for survival. However, does that mean that the State could do everything it desires to guarantee ‘public welfare’?

Police power is inherent but not limitless. The principle of due process -- not just the mere semblance of it, but the principles of justice and fairness which it seeks to protect -- is related to the doctrine of natural law and inalienable rights (Mott, 1926). Due process is a necessary boundary to police power, especially in cases concerning human lives.

Police Operations

According to news sources, more than 300-500+ alleged drug peddlers have been killed in police operations. The policemen do not condone summary killings; however, they would still undergo investigations to verify the validity of their operations regardless of the pardon1 that our President promises to give them. An advance pardon would not exclude one from the entire operation of the law.

PNP’s war on drugs is different from the summary killings carried on by unidentified men, which they do not condone. Nonetheless, they are mandated to have “no mercy” during operations – but only under circumstances where their lives are threatened. Our policemen need to make a credible effort to avoid unnecessary killings in their buy-bust operations.2

It is tempting to be discouraged by how the government is wielding its police power seemingly without regard to due process. On the other hand, we acknowledge that policemen die in these buy-bust operations. How then do Christians honor the civil authorities and at the same time, uphold the rule of law?

God’s Sovereignty Over All

God’s Word admonishes us to submit to our government (Romans 13:3-4) for it protects the innocent and punishes wrongdoing (the punishment being commensurate to the crime committed, as pronounced in Exodus 21:23-25 and as echoed by lex talionis). By condoning summary killings and intolerant police operations, we are systematically disintegrating this protective shield. As Christians, we should also consider that every person executed – whether summarily or under the police, whether alleged drug peddler or policeman – is deprived any further opportunity to hear the Good News, repent, and be saved (even if that has to happen in prison).

In light of God's grace towards us as sinners, can we really approve of the arbitrary killing of any human being?

God's sovereignty does not excuse our irresponsibility, whether it’s in blindly supporting or vehemently detracting our current government. As Christians, let us uphold each person’s dignity, remembering that only upon hearing and understanding the Gospel can any one be pardoned of sin committed against the Sovereign God.

One major argument of those who condone this war is “What of the victims? You’re not in their shoes…” We’ll thresh that out in the next post.


"Drugs Death Toll." Digital image. ABS-CBN News. August 4, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2016.

Cupin, Bea. "PNP Chief: 'I Do Not Condone Summary Killings'" Rappler. July 08, 2016. Accessed August 25, 2016.

Esguerra, Anthony Q. "Duterte Tells Critics: Count Cops, Soldiers Killed in Drug War, Too." August 25, 2016. Accessed August 25, 2016.

Gutierrez, Jason. "Body Count Rises as Philippine President Wages War on Drugs." The New York Times Asia Pacific. August 02, 2016. Accessed August 25, 2016.

Macas, Trisha. "Duterte Promises Pardon, Promotion for Law Enforcers in Legal Trouble." GMA News Online. August 05, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2016.

Mott, Rodney L. Due Process of Law: A Historical and Analytical Treatise of the Principles and Methods Followed by the Courts in the Application of the Concept of the "law of the Land" Indianapolis: Bobs-Merill Company, 1926.

Pacia, Sarah Isabelle. The Kill List. JPEG. The Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 15, 2016. Accessed August 25, 2016.

Rosalado, RJ. "Duterte to Law Enforcers: Show No Mercy to Drug Lords." ABS-CBN News. July 25, 2016. Accessed August 25, 2016.

Rosette, Adel. "Human Rights Advocates Urge Duterte to Stop Extrajudicial Killings." Philstar Global. July 14, 2016. Accessed August 9, 2016.


1 Pardon can only be given after a verdict of ‘guilty’ – it implies that the offender has admitted his wrongdoing.

2 A buy-bust operation is a police strategy wherein a law enforcer poses as a drug buyer and catches a drug peddler whose selling illegal drugs.

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