Based on the intelligence he gathered, President Duterte has publicly ACCUSED the five generals of a crime. Accusing someone of a crime is not the same as violating the presumption of innocence.

Based on the intelligence he gathered, President Duterte has publicly ACCUSED the five generals of a crime. Accusing someone of a crime is not the same as violating the presumption of innocence.

As the Philippine Constitution states in Article III, Section 14.2, “in a criminal prosecution, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf.”

This provision doesn’t give anyone the right not to be accused of any crime. If I accuse X of stealing something from me, I don’t need to presume his/her innocence in order to do that. The person referred to in that provision is someone who has already been accused of a crime. And because of this accusation s/he has the right to defend him/herself against that accusation in a court of law. Thus, it’s not the absence but the presence of an accusation that is the necessary condition for the constitutional provision on the presumption of innocence to operate.

If I want X to be punished by the State for the crime I think he/she committed (i.e. for him/her to be deprived by his life, liberty, or property), I need to prove his/her guilt before a court of law. The burden of proof is on me. It is the court of law that must presume X’s innocence and not I who accuse him/her of a crime. For me, X is guilty. I am not violating the constitution by presuming that, and you cannot demand from me to presume X’s innocence – that would be preposterous. Because if I don’t believe X is guilty of the crime I’m accusing him/her of, why the hell am I wasting my time proving it? I need to convince the court of law that I’m right beyond reasonable doubt in order for the judge to instruct the State to punish X according to law. But I don’t need to prove X’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt in order for me to accuse X of a crime and for the court to hear out my case against X.

Article III, Section 14.1 of the constitution says, “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.”

Duterte accused the five generals of a crime. He didn’t deprive them of their constitutional right to presumption of innocence nor of their due process rights. Duterte didn’t convict those generals; he is accusing them. He didn’t execute them; he is accusing them. He actually instructed these generals to report “to the director general” and to talk to the “police commission.”

Duterte even said that he would let the commission do its job and that he wouldn’t interfere in the process. Are those instructions violations of the “due process of law”? They are being given a chance to defend themselves against Duterte’s accusations. I’m not even persuaded that Duterte’s public accusation has deprived these generals of their life, liberty, and property. They are still alive, free, and enjoying the fruits of their labours, may they be ill-gotten or legitimately acquired.

The embarrassment that they are experiencing right now is no different from the embarrassment people who’ve been accused of a crime and are now defending themselves in a court of law.

Some say that by publicly naming them, Duterte might be committing libel. Well, you can accuse him of that. But convicting him of the crime of libel requires the court of law to presume his innocence first, and you must prove that crime beyond reasonable doubt.

You see, the existence of malice is one of the elements of libel. In Mendez vs. Court of Appeals (1999), the Supreme Court defines what can be considered malicious:

“In order to constitute malice, ill will must be personal. So if the ill will is engendered by one’s sense of justice or other legitimate or plausible motive, such feeling negatives actual malice.”

Duterte’s public accusation of a crime is not malicious at all. It wasn’t personal. As he began his speech, “..I was given this morning a prepared speech. It was all motherhood statements. And I felt that I had to do something more for the country. For it is my moral duty, my obligation, by my oath of office that you should know what is happening to the country…” His expose wasn’t driven by personal hate but by his sense of duty to the Filipino people, whose sovereign will he must serve.

The public disclosure has another legitimate motive: National Security.

On the 4th of July 2001, President Gloria Arroyo issued Letter of Instruction No. 1, “National Anti-Drug Program of Action.” As far as I know, this LOI is still operational. It states that “the drug menace has become Public Enemy No 1 of the entire Filipino People as well as the No 1 Threat to the National Security of our country.”

By virtue of this LOI, anyone involved in illegal drugs is a threat to national security. And the first mission of this LOI is “to dismantle/neutralize all drug syndicates, producers, traffickers, pushers and their cohorts in the police/military/government office.” . If you are disturbed by that, I recommend that you challenge the constitutionality of this LOI in the Supreme Court. But until it’s there, live with it.

By publicly naming the protectors of drug syndicates in the police/military/government offices, verified by the highest and finest type of intelligence report in the country, the President is fulfilling his duty to protect the public from threats to their security. What Duterte did isn’t libellous but a patriotic act.

And if you’re not convinced that these legitimate aims don’t justify the humiliation these general suffered, let me quote what former DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima said when she denied Gloria Arroyo the right to travel by denying her request for an allow-departure order in 2011: “Between national interest and one’s constitutional rights, which is more important? It’s certainly the interest of the state.”

Human rights lawyer Harry Roque actually sided with De Lima, “Of course I agree with Justice Secretary Leila De Lima. The bigger national interest dictates that Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband should not be allowed to leave the country.”

It baffles me that a lot who are angry at Duterte for naming and shaming the generals that are appearing on my timeline are the very same people who applauded De Lima’s boldness.