Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Laws Not Men

In yet another example of what is wrong with this country, the PNP are planning to arrest vape users after Duterte’s directive, despite there actually being yet no law or executive order banning vaping. Thus, the arrests are meaningless and merely another form of harassment.

PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac explained that while violators would be apprehended, they would be released immediately after the incident is recorded in the police blotter.

Nobody knows that the rules for this so-called ban are:

Ferdinand Rodrigo, president of Vapers Alliance Philippines, told “The Chiefs” last night on Cignal TV’s One News that they wanted to seek clarification from Malacañang on the basis for the ban and its parameters.

Rodrigo said their members across the country reported having police teams entering vape shops yesterday and telling them to shut down, which was not how they understood Duterte’s order.

I don’t vape, and I don’t actually know people who vape, and I don’t know whether or not vaping is bad for people (though it seems like a terrible idea), but that doesn’t mean I can agree with what is basically a “rule by whim”, with unknown basis and parameters. The police are following along with this basically because the president said so, and to defy him is to incur his wrath. And the president even threatened the judiciary not to interfere with his whims.

There is some analogy here to how the brutal war on drugs is conducted. The president threatens to kill drug users, and the police silently take that as an implicit order. There is no actual paperwork ordering killings, but wink wink nudge nudge, the police get to infer what the president want.

It shows how much weight we as a nation give to laws - barely any at all. Laws are treated as little more than suggestions, and law enforcers can implement whatever they damn want.

Authoritarians love ruling in this manner, and their supporters like to claim it’s because they “get things done” without all the bureaucratic runaround that legislation requires. Getting rid of due process in order to get good things done quickly seems like a reasonable idea on the surface, but due process is there for a reason, and if you can’t be bothered to uphold it when you’re doing good, how will you be bothered to uphold it when you’re abusing power.

It is a cultural problem too. Even we the citizens have little respect for rules and laws and try to skip around them when we can. This is why we have fixers, and connections, and patronage. We trade on favors to get us out of trouble.

Granted, we don’t always have the best laws, and enforcement is always hard, and justice is often elusive especially to the poor. But that should be used as a reason to improve the laws and to improve enforcement and to improve the justice system, not as a reason to skip past the law altogether and just do whatever the men in power so decide.

Maybe someday we’ll get there, but right now we are decidedly governed not by laws, but by men.

Posted by under post at #philippines #current events
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