Here is why President Rodrigo Duterte can legally kill criminals in the Philippines


The cornerstone of presidential candidate and former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign is a promise to curb galloping national crime rates that have left Filipinos gripped by fear. According to Duterte, his presidential term will be “bloody”, presumably said blood spilt when he makes good on his promise to kill criminals.

How exactly is Duterte going to do it?

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The law allows very narrow latitude for police officers to use lethal force against a civilian. According to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Guidebook on Human Rights-Based Policing, “Lethal force should not be used except when strictly unavoidable in order to protect your life or the lives of others.” And even before an officer gets to the point where the option to use legal force becomes relevant, there is a bevy of procedures and guidelines that govern how he or she should approach a suspect even just for questioning.

It is likely that most, if not all, instances where a Duterte-style “kill” by a PNP officer may occur involve an arrest-without-warrant scenario. In such scenarios, the rule book stipulates that such an approach is legal (1) when the suspect “has committed, is actually committing, or attempting to commit an offense or crime in the presence of a police officer,” or (2) when “an offense or crime has just been committed and the police officer has personal knowledge of facts indicating that the person to be arrested had committed the said offense or crime.”

But even when in custody, a suspect then enjoys presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a Philippine court. This means, a police officer cannot make summary judgment and act on said judgment on the spot. In short, even if a crook is caught red-handed, Duterte’s police officers and agents cannot issue a guilty verdict and kill said crook on the basis of that verdict. The suspect becomes subject to due process.

How then can a police officer get around these legal roadblocks to killing crooks?

The only way shooting a crook can be justified is if said crook poses an imminent danger to the arresting or intervening officer or to other people. That said, it is quite easy for police officers to set-up an operation in a manner that will provoke crooks to resort to violence and undertake actions deemed physically-threatening to police officers. Then again, a dead crook has no way of proving that he or she was in the process of surrendering when shot at by the cops. A battered and bruised crook can be made out to have been “roughed up” by civilians before the police arrived. Many ways to skin a cat, for sure.

Who would believe crooks anyway? Indeed, the Philippines, to begin with, has a strong tradition of lynching and subjecting its people to the court of public opinion. Even top politicians and government officials have succumbed to a his-word-against-hers “trial” wherein the most authoritative or the loudest voice gets to be right.

In that sense, a police operation is no different to, say, a Philippine Senate “Inquiry”. In both cases, there is always a potential for the “suspect” to be tagged guilty even before he or she ever faces a judge in a real court. Former Chief Justice Renato Corona is an example. His career was killed not by a Philippine judge but by a mob of highly-“motivated” Philippine senators and a cadre of “cooperative” Filipino journalists.

Filipinos will likely relish the bloody slaughter of criminals under a Duterte presidencey much the same way they make bloodsports of the Senate “Inquiries” that are ratings bonanzas for the “news and public affairs” programs of big Philippine media networks. In both cases the Philippine judiciary plays no part, yet guilt and retribution abound nonetheless.

In that sense, a Duterte presidency will, indeed make good on its promise to kill criminals much the same way as President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III made good on his promise to impeach Corona. A popular lynching, after all, is, by all intents and purposes, legal in the Philippines.

35 Replies to “Here is why President Rodrigo Duterte can legally kill criminals in the Philippines”

  1. In short, you are saying that Duterte can legally kill criminals in the Philippines because the mob consciousness of the Filipino will “legalize” it.

    It’s funny though; it seems we both love and hate the rule of law — rule of law for our EEZ, rule of the mob for lynching.

    It may only reinforce what sociologists say of the Filipino mind — we are out for benefits with a philosophy of appraisal. Survival is the core ideal of the Filipino, and to survive, we often think of the moment. We do not practice foresight, as foresight demands looking ahead, while survival requires us to look at the moment.

  2. What is next? Civilians taking matters into their own hands?

    “That said, it is quite easy for police officers to set-up an operation in a manner that will provoke crooks to resort to violence and undertake actions deemed physically-threatening to police officers.”
    Isnt it just much easier for the cop to tell the judge/head of police that s/he was defending himself (and as result killed the crook cold-heartedly) without even provoking the crook?

    1. Sounds like bad cop to me.

      Good Cop: “I have a duty to uphold and enforce the law, and I will uphold and enforce the law using any and all of the means that have been entitled to me. I will seek to it that I do my work with due diligence, pride, integrity and honesty, without any malice in my part, out of sincere belief, good faith, and noble intentions. I do not wish to take anyone’s life, but if I have to, I will not hesitate. You have been warned.”

      Bad Cop: “I am the law. Do as I say, or I will kick your face in, and I may even kill you. I am protected by the state, and as long as anything I do is within the reasonable bounds of my duties, there is nothing you can do to me that will not have any repercussions towards you. So hit me as you please.”

      1. @NJCelles,
        I base my projections on what Benign0 stated. Its just a very thin line.

        On the other hand, I am very glad that the cops in my country are NOT trigger-happy. It is a rare event that a citizen gets killed or even gets shot by a cop. Probably thanked to the laws we have that citizens are not allowed to own and possess guns/fire arms.

        The only killings that do happen, occur in the drug lords environment/societies.

  3. hopefully you can research the crime rates in the Philippines compare it with the rest of the world, compare crime rates Davao and compare to each city in the Philippines.

    More data, factual less rhetoric. I cannot even find data that Davao city’s crime rate is zero or it is even less than Makati’s or even the rest of Davao region.

    After 6 months you will all be be disappointed if you base it on rhetoric especially if the reality is not insync with rhetoric.

    1. Yeah, what about the kidnapping(& killing)of foreigners in Samar by Abu Sayyaf last year? That’s the Mayor’s home turf! How long has A.Syf. been allowed to run rampant in the bukid raking in millions per year by criminal activities? Will certain gangs be allowed certain privileges under Pres Duterte?

  4. Deuterte is a danger to all members of the country. Electing a criminal that has bragged about killing people in his hometown,’EXTRA-JUDICIOUSLY’ is a guilty plea and the guy belongs in jail, not running for President.

    It seems like a great idea until your MOTHER/SON/DAUGHTER/WIFE/BEST FRIEND gets shot in the street, like a dog, and you have no recourse.YEAH, THEN WHAT ?

    1. man, that is a very stupid assumption, misinformed even. but, not if your MOTHER/SON/DAUGHTER/WIFE/BEST FRIEND gets shot in the street because they are drug pusher/dealers or criminals. those who are against the law should fear for their lives, not if you are a law abiding citizen, which is very good for us as a country. are you a law-abiding citizen? mr. duterte is not that stupid btw. and he does not kill right away.

      1. man, that is a very stupid assumption, misinformed even. but, not if your MOTHER/SON/DAUGHTER/WIFE/BEST FRIEND gets shot in the street because they are drug pusher/dealers or criminals.

        One question: are you sure everyone that was shot was a confirmed drug dealer?

        Roll the bones and let’s see. Ken eddy’s point is about security:

        I am secure from everything as long as I am not perceived as a drug dealer. When I become perceived as such, then I may be killed, even if it was only a perception and I am indeed a law abiding citizen.

        That is basically his point.

        1. Well spoken njcelles; I’m all for stopping crime & criminals, but if innocent people are easily caught in the cross-fire or be unjustly framed and swindled because the environment is unnecessarily charged by big-bucks offered to trigger-happy cops to get the bad guys off the streets – on on a make-shift schedule- and the rule-of-law is just too slow, maybe the status quo and the comfortably-corrupt-Pinoy-killing-culture is not so bad after all. I don’t know, maybe Ron is right – we just need some hope!

      2. Says the trigger-happy failipino who always do the “pwede na iyan” mentality and just labels anyone “attacking” him as “criminals” without due process. You just want to go back to the old west do you idiot?

  5. Only in a country full of idiots can a Creep like this Dueterte guy openly brag about breaking the law to enforce the law get elected President. The people of a country like that must be a quite a few SAT points short of a passing grade.

    1. Its a philosophical argument: the letter of the law versus the moral/spirit of the law.

      A cop may kill the assassin who kills for the state.

      A cop may let a robber go free simply because he did not read to robber his rights.

  6. For someone who’s supposed to be smart, you sure are one sided with how you see things. This article is plain scaremongering based on speculations.

    Davao City rose from its ashes not because criminals gets killed. It is due to Duterte making sure that the law is fair and applicable to everyone. Even to himself.

    As for Duterte’s probable solution in curbing criminality in 3-6 months. His solution is giving the police a pay increase. Rendering them to be less susceptible to corruption and loss of motivation. Imagine, a police that’s really working with honor and pride in what they do. That will be a fundamental shift.

    1. Your statements are valid as long as Duterte is clean of extra-judicial killings.

      But that is unlikely, unless I am wrong. I hope I am, but if and since(as far as a remember) Duterte himself admits to killings, then you have something to prove:

      Prove the integrity of breaking the law to enforce the law.

      That is all that I may need to hear about it.

      I present such conditions, out of a philosophical viewpoint: if the laws are obeyed not out of virtue but out of power, fear, and authoritarianism, then at any moment that power is lost, fear is conquered, and authority has weakened, then the state will very much collapse to political unrest caused by the power vacuum. As people will identify the law with power, then without power, there is no law.

      Now, I argue against the idea that you can break the law to enforce the law — that is power play, not lawful enforcement — you are keeping your cake while eating it as well. You cannot claim to be a law-abiding citizen if you break the law to supposedly enforce it. The ideas in the propositions are in contradiction to each other:

      Keep the law.
      Break the law.
      You cannot break the law to keep the law.

      As for my own view, I see the loss of the law in the decades to follow. For what I see, is that people will fear the persons in power, and not the law.

      I ask you: what can you do, if you were Duterte, to convince me that I will not associate law with power? If you use fear against me, I simply prove my point — what will happen when I no longer fear you, and when you are gone? Since there is no one to fear, why would I care about the law?

      Now imagine that kind of thinking down the generations. That is a recipe for unrest, since no one respects the law: people only respect the law because they fear someone, but not the law itself.

      But, you are not entirely without a point. But in my opinion, we are desperate, and so we seek desperate measures. And although we have laws, the powerful twist for their ends — the law protects us as long as no one powerful enough will twist it for them. But without the law, there is even less protection — no policeman would hesitate to use lethal force as there are no constitutional rights for anybody. Our leaders — to discuss them here would be to murder everyone’s eyes because of the length of discussion. Our society and culture — broken.

      We are desperate — that is clear to me. We seek changes, and we will get those changes, no matter what the cost. Even if it means creating an inconsistent, dissonant political view that leans to arbitrary rule of power and not rule of law.

      As power will rest on Duterte’s hands, may he be the individual to be responsible for it.

      1. As far as the records say, Duterte is clear from any part of DDS killings. It has been investigated in the past, he’s not been linked and police officers were sacked.

        Even HRW report does not say that Duterte is masterminding the killings. Yes, they do say Duterte is not doing enough but that is hardly something what he has been accused of (specially during election times).

        I have little worry when it comes to rule of law. Duterte upholds this to its highest form and respect. When he said if he were to kill that rice smuggler, he also said he’d go to jail afterwards. Simple as that. Our country is beset with lawlessness and I can imagine one would go berserk from the stupidity of it.

        Duterte has been mayor in Davao City for so long. Never was he abusive in his position. This is one of the reasons why people of Davao City loves him. He’s down to earth. People approach him casually (because they do not fear him). There is no high and mighty aura of Duterte. He’s a softie to his people. But strict when it comes to the law.

        We (Davaoenos) support Duterte not because we are desperate. It’s because we want to share to the Philippines that it is possible to have a leader, who would serve us earnestly and honestly. Someone who is willing to risk his neck for our sake. Someone to guide our country away from fragmentation and conflict. And hopefully towards peace, equality, true justice and wide spread prosperity.

        1. We (Davaoenos) support Duterte not because we are desperate.

          That is good to hear. But can we say that such the sentiment among the rest of the Filipinos?

          I am hoping that the reason by Duterte’s popularity is born of high hopes and reason — not desperation. Now, it is impossible to be desperate if there is no hope, but I really don’t think we should associate good results with desperation. That may create a worldview associated with the lack of good things rather than the more positive desire for good things. If we are only strong in desperation, then I think we will subconsciously seek to be in dire conditions, for that is what makes us strong. That will not do well for us — we must remain strong even in dire times, not because we are great when we are desperate but because we aspire. Our strength in the darkness should come from seeking to thrive with light, rather than merely reacting to the dark with fear and desperation.

      2. “Now, I argue against the idea that you can break the law to enforce the law — that is power play, not lawful enforcement — you are keeping your cake while eating it as well. You cannot claim to be a law-abiding citizen if you break the law to supposedly enforce it. The ideas in the propositions are in contradiction to each other..”
        njcelle, may I suggest that the argument has to do more with morality, than virtue. It has to do with the very meaning of morality, “the degree with which we are subject to the moral head within our sphere of existence.” If I am the moral head of my sphere, you had better look out!! If I want your bicycle, I take it and you can say nothing to me about it!! If you think YOU are the moral head, sooner or later you will step on my toes and we won’t be on speaking terms. But, God willing, if something higher than both of us is acknowledged as the official moral head and final authority, then society will truly be served. Evil doers will be righteously punished and the righteous will be rewarded.
        If our new President understands true morality, the same morality that the Republic of the Philippines was founded upon, he will truly serve this country! I will not question his tactics and I will support him fully.

  7. We wait and see, if Duterte wins, and kill criminals, without due process of law…

    If that is the case; let us bring back: hanging, crucifixion, the French guillotine, boiling people in oil,cutting of criminals’ Heads, etc…criminals deserve those punishments. Especially, those big time politicians thieves, who stole thru DAP, PDAF, POrk Barrels, Typhoon Yolanda Relief Funds, etc…

  8. The law of the land applies only to has power to enforce it supports basically elites and oligarchs, what law are you talking about, when it is very clear, is it just or are they just obligated to steal because of the bank secrecy law can protects theives. Hahaha

  9. What made you write such a slanderous article benign0?

    What is your point and motive, because what you write about is a shoe that can fit ANY President.

    Your article would be just fine if it were called:

    “Here is why the President can legally kill criminals in the Philippines”.

    But no, you had to link it to one candidate only. A one sided smear….

    I’m not amused.

    Break some eggs to make an omelet!

    1. I “linked” to Rodrigo Duterte because he actually did reveal a plan to do exactly that. Here he is going on record with that plan and reported by no less than the Manila Times

      When I become president, I’ll order the police and the military to find these people and kill them.

      So I guess the Times is also guilty of “slander” on account of that piece. But why be outraged by directly linking that promise to Duterte specifically? As the Times report pointed out, it is a “vote-winning vow”, all but proven successful on the field — certainly more successful than Roxas’s quaint pagmamalinis platform.

      You are right, though. That willingness to work around the law (rather than with it) is “a shoe that fits any president” — which, bingo!, was the point of this article. So I’ll give credit to you for at least getting that. 😉

      1. The article also states that he cursed the pope’s mother…. which we already know was a misquote.

        I’m missing to read there that he taught martial arts to Chuck Norris and will perform satanic rituals every night followed by eating baby seals for breakfast.

        Oh boy! Sensationalism at it’s finest.

        I hope you at least get “that”.

  10. What is the problem? The problem is simple. A place in the USA called Dallas, Texas did the same thing back in the 1960’s to the 1970’s Crime rate was lower some people were put to death. Later when DNA evidence came around we found out that almost a 25% of the guilty were actually innocent. When you push a police department to bend a few rules here and there, the result will be innocent people will go to jail or receive the death penalty. Last time I checked the police here in the Philippines do not have the up to date technology or the manpower to do what is needed here. The mob will not support technology even on this page, which is going to lead into a very gray area of right and wrong in this country. Awhile back, I quoted how a DNA test could solve the problem on a certain’s candidates heritage. Many of the educated people on this very website, thought incorrectly that to determines a person’s heritage by DNA, you needed a sample from one of the biological parents. A sample is needed for a paternity test, not for a heritage test which is able to tell a person’s heritage currently accurately to third generation which is great grandparents.

  11. Like what William above implies… how are you sure the ones killed will be criminals? Indeed setting up someone to be killed can involve something like a person angered by being beaten by someone he dislikes at a card game, or a man someone believes is hitting on his wife, so instead of checking to confirm, patayin nalang para walang problema.

    Not only is the Filipino bent on survival as their highest order of purpose in life. They believe their survival depends on others not surviving. Filipinos still being stuck in survival mode is one of the factors keeping our society dangerous and backwards.

    One other thing: what makes you think Duterte’s in control of his campaign? Based on the Yellow experience, the guy on top is usually a puppet. I could expect future presidents to be no less.

    I also see Duterte as an expression of provincial people’s desire to secede from “imperial Manila” and form their own countries. While I understand where that comes from, that might be more detrimental than helpful.

    Republicans wanting to bring guns to a convention; Duterte fanatics wanting criminals (or even non-criminals) summarily killed; it seems there is a worldwise movement wanting to go back to the “good old days” where people can be freely killed without responsibility. Back to the ancient barbaric days.

  12. The matter came up for investigation, but as might have been expected, the Failipinos in the Failippines concluded it was unnecessary to wait the result of the investigation — that it was preferable to hang the accused first and try him afterward.

  13. The biggest concern always about a possible dictatorship with ‘swift justice’ or law of the jungle types of tactics employed on a society is how eggregious it
    is. Killing known drug pushers and users and rapists and child abusers, thieves and murderers and kidnappers and extortionists is one thing and still
    scary if no due process offered to the suspects but it gets even worse still. Those sorts of strong-arm and cold-blooded practices usually soon expand into persecution, discrimination of, eliminating or disappearing the political or ideological enemies of a hard core totalitarian type of leader. Once it is unleashed it is hard to ever stop short of a country spilling into a full-scale horrific civil war. Then how that ends leaves scars that are not healed even in a hundred years no matter the end result if such all-out civil conflict eventuates. We should all be very careful what we pray for and remember the old saying that says, the devil you know is better than the angel you haven’t met yet! Carlos

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