Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Rights of a Human Being To Whom Legal Process is Due

This is Part 2 of a series of guest posts entitled "The Constitution and Cardboard Justice", by my friend and churchmate, Goya Pableo. To read the first article click here.

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Cardboard Justice refers to the recent streak of extrajudicial killings in light of the Duterte administration's war against illegal drugs. As Filipino Christians, we can hardly be apathetic to this issue.

In this post, we'll discuss the basic concept of human rights and due process as enshrined in The 1987 Philippine Constitution, and frame the discussion within two questions: What were the dead? and What were their rights?

What The Dead Are – Or Were

Article II, Section 11 of the Constitution declares that “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”

The dead were humans (an obvious fact), and the State ought to value their dignity by virtue of their simply being human. At this fundamental level, there's no distinction between a drug user and, say, the President. Both are on equal footing, both have inherent dignity as humans, and both should be continually valued, honored and respected. Even criminals are human.

That means the victims of Cardboard Justice had human rights. The Constitution adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (UDHR), having transcribed it to Article III of the same. The UDHR did not bestow human rights; it only recognized what already was inherent. Even if there was no UDHR, human rights would still persist. What, then, are the fundamental human rights to be considered for those who were slain under Cardboard Justice?

What They Should Have Had, But Didn’t Get

Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution states that "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law."

Due process should be afforded to anyone who comes into conflict with the law. Procedurally, if you are accused of a drug-related crime, the courts and law enforcers should ensure your right to notice (you are being accused of a drug-related crime – did you know?) and hearing (are you affirming or denying the accusation? – let the court hear you). This means that you can't just be arbitrarily arrested, deprived of your property, or killed.

Due process protects us from abuse of power (‘I’ll kill you because I think you’re a criminal’), even if such abuse is disguised in the niceties of procedural form. Moreover, the denial of due process opens monstrous opportunities for vendettas that are not drug-related. If you have an enemy, just shoot him and leave the signature cardboard!

Due process is for everyone. It is not bestowed by popular opinion, nor can it be eradicated by a Chief Executive’s pronunciation. The law of the land is above all who are within its territorial jurisdiction. As they say, it is “the rule of law and not of man”.

What else were the victims of Cardboard Justice deprived of?
  •  They did not undergo custodial investigation, wherein they should have had the chance to discuss with a police officer the allegations leveled against them (Article III, Section 12 (1));
  • They weren’t presumed innocent until proven guilty;
  • They weren’t given the chance to consult with or be assisted by lawyers (Article III, Section 14 (1)); and
  • They weren’t formally adjudged ‘guilty’ by a judicial court and meted with the death penalty – there was no speedy, fair trial (Article III, Section 16).
Those most responsible for the extrajudicial killings assure us that "change is coming." The dead, however, can no longer change nor experience change. The Scriptures do reassure us of God's sovereignty over all situations at all times, but the perpetrators of injustice will be held responsible, either by a human court or by the Judge of all. And let us be warned that a nation that would abet such injustice will have blood on their hands.

Thus, we have to prayerfully consider and ask ourselves: are we willing to be used by God in this issue?

Next, we’ll try answering the questions ‘What about due process for the State and the victims of drug-dependents?’ and ‘What is general welfare?’ to help us better understand what the Philippine law covers for the public, the dead, and the dead’s victims.

SOURCE: The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. Philippines. Official Gazette. GOVPH. Accessed July 26, 2016.

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