DAVAO CITY, Philippines – In the wake of a deadly bomb attack at a popular night market here on Friday night, President Duterte placed the nation yesterday under a state of lawlessness and declared he may authorize security forces to “run the country according to my specifications.”
But he made clear a state of lawlessness is not martial law as there would be no curfews or suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
The explosion Friday night at the Roxas night market killed 15 people and wounded more than 70 others.
Terror group Abu Sayyaf immediately claimed responsibility for the attack carried out in the President’s home province.
“There is violence. This is terrorism,” the President told reporters after visiting the blast site at around 4:30 a.m. yesterday.
“Any punitive action that will be taken by the security forces will be in a bid to stop terrorism,” the President said.
Under a state of lawlessness, Duterte said police and soldiers would be authorized to conduct searches in accordance with the “orchestration of the national government.”
It was not the first time Davao City was placed under a state of lawlessness. Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made the same declaration in 2003 after bombings at the Davao airport terminal and the Sasa Wharf.
Arroyo’s declaration paved the way for the establishment of the Army-led Task Force Davao, which is now an integral part of the security component of the Davao City local government unit.
Duterte said a state of lawlessness would be in effect “until such time I say it’s time to lift it.”
“I am including drugs because of the many killings unfairly attributed to the police. I have this duty to protect the country. I have this duty to keep intact the integrity of our nation,” the President said.
“That binds everybody,” he added.
The President was staying in the city over the weekend in preparation for his scheduled flight today to Brunei – his first foreign trip as president. The trip has been canceled.
“We have to confront the ugly head of terrorism,” Duterte said. “We will take this as a police matter about terrorism.”
He insisted there was no failure of intelligence on the part of the government as they had prior information on possible reprisal by the Abu Sayyaf, which has reportedly lost dozens of its members due to intensified military offensive in Sulu.
Earlier, the military reported losing 15 soldiers in clashes with the terror group in Sulu.
“We were forewarned. We were ready and all of the commanders are here, even (Nicanor) Faeldon of the Bureau of Customs and the intelligence heads are here,” he said.
Aside from Faeldon, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) director Alex Paul Monteagudo was also in Davao with the President.
“Unfortunately, we cannot frisk or order people to stop because it would be fascistic. That is the price of being in a democratic state,” he said.
There was a lockdown in Davao City as security personnel continued their hunt for the perpetrators of the terror attack at the Roxas market.
Hours before the explosion Friday, the President attended the inauguration of the Davao International Container Terminal (DICT).
While urging the people to remain calm, Duterte said they should also be vigilant.
Not unique to Phl
He noted terrorism of such magnitude is not unique to the country, as developed and powerful nations such as the United States and Russia had been targets of terror attacks.
“Terrorism abounds everywhere… in the US, in Russia,” he said. “We’ll see each other in Laos,” he said, apparently referring to his bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Laos on Sept.6-8 with US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Duterte stressed his declaration of a state of lawlessness would address not only the latest terror attack but also the drug menace and summary killings – issues that he claimed have evolved into full crisis.
“There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, EJK (extra judicial killings) or we say killings, there seems to be environment of lawlessness. Lawless violence,” he said.
With a state of lawlessness in effect, Duterte said more military and police checkpoints may be set up across the country.
“There will be checkpoints. I believe they will be allowed to do that,” he said. “I leave it to the police and the military” to do what needs to be done “to suppress the problem.”
He assured the public the government is on top of the situation. “I said, government is here with you. As much as humanly possible, we will protect everybody, we have very limited soldiers and policemen so I suggest that the citizens also do their part on being vigilant,” he said.
After some confusion over the coverage of the President’s declaration, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella clarified the declaration covers the entire country.
“Due to the heightened security issues the coverage of the state of lawlessness will include both Mindanao and the rest of the nation,” Abella said.
“We need to be cautious. This is related to security issues,” he added.
President Duterte is allowed under the Constitution to explore options for addressing lawlessness and violence, Abella said.
The President’s declaration of a state of lawlessness is justified under Article VII Section 18 of the Constitution.
Sec.18 allows the president to “call out” the armed forces “whenever necessary” to “prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.”
“The declaration is limited, such that he can only call out the armed forces to suppress the lawless violence,” Abella said in a separate statement.
He also emphasized the declaration is different from martial law. “It is a different case from the existence of invasion or rebellion. Only if there is invasion or rebellion, and when public safety requires it, can he suspend the writ of habeas corpus or declare martial law,” the spokesman said.
“In the spirit of unity and love of country let us remain alert to the activities of those who wish to create chaos and prayerfully agree for peace to reign in the land,” he added.
“It takes a courageous and united people who complain less and do more to build the nation we dream of and deserve,” he said.
“We ask everyone to cooperate. When passing a check point, let us turn off our headlights and turn-on the light inside the vehicle to allow our law enforcers to perform their jobs,” Abella said.
“It is for our own safety. The government is doing its best but the unity and cooperation of everybody is necessary to fight the terrorists and to cleanse the country of criminality,” he said.
Not state sponsored
In a press briefing at Camp Crame, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa squelched insinuations the Davao blast was state sponsored to justify martial law.
“That claim is hurting us. The President loves Davao City so much. He can’t do that. We have enough heartache already. There were several bombings in Davao City in the past since I became a policeman and it pained us when these blasts occurred. To accuse the blast was state sponsored, that’s very unfair accusation. I myself am worried each time I hear about that. I am sorry,” Dela Rosa said.
“We assure the public of the readiness of the PNP in addressing any threat of this nature and thwarting any attempt by threat groups to sow fear and anxiety among our people,” he stressed.
On possible lapse in intelligence, De la Rosa said mistakes happen and that even the Central Intelligence Agency had failed many times to forewarn the US government of terror attacks.
He stressed security in Davao City had been tightened even before the Friday blast.
“All entry and exit points in all three to four major thoroughfares were sealed by Task Force Davao but still the perpetrators were able to slip past the security mantle as they could always use the city’s long shorelines in carrying out their evil deeds,” De la Rosa said.
As soon as Duterte declared a nationwide state of lawlessness, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PNP went on full alert.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno, for his part, appealed for calm and urged the public to cooperate with authorities.
“Please avoid places of public convergence and please bear with us while our soldiers and our policemen are performing their mandated duties,” Sueno in a radio interview said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that while they had anticipated a terror attack by the Abu Sayyaf, they were not able to pinpoint exactly when and where it would occur.
“I have directed all commands of the AFP to be on high alert, especially in urban centers for possible other terrorist acts. The Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) in Davao City will also aid in gathering intelligence information and in conducting investigation to get to the bottom of this unfortunate incident,” Lorenzana said.
“Any group or individual who perpetrated this act… they will be made to answer for this dastardly crime,” said AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.
“Once again we appeal for cooperation of the public as we tackle this affront to our democracy. We ask our people to bear with us as we dutifully but courteously conduct our check points and increase our presence in some areas. Your soldiers are there to ensure that general public will be safe and that no criminals or terrorists lurk in our streets to perpetrate vicious acts,” Padilla said.
AFP chief Gen. Ricardo Visaya has ordered area commanders to coordinate with their counterparts in the PNP in keeping peace and order.
“We are calling for vigilance among our people. That is our first line of defense and the ultimate measure to attain collective security.” – Jaime Laude
Response of Philippines President to Fatal Blast Raises Fears
MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a “state of lawlessness” in the Philippines after a blast that left at least 14 dead raised fears on Saturday that it could lead to a curtailment of basic freedoms.
The declaration of a state of lawlessness would allow the military to carry out some police operations, including patrolling urban areas, conducting searches, enforcing curfews and setting up checkpoints, Mr. Duterte said.
A presidential spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said Saturday that the declaration was “limited” and allowed for the use of troops only to deal with security threats and to “suppress” violence.
Mr. Abella emphasized that the president was not declaring martial law, which he could do only in response to an “invasion or rebellion, and when the public safety requires it.”
He called for unity and told the public to “complain less and do more” in the wake of the explosion in Davao, on the southern island of Mindanao, on Friday.
Mr. Duterte’s announcement was viewed with concern by some lawmakers and human rights groups, who had already expressed alarm over a violent war on crime and drugs initiated by Mr. Duterte. Nearly 1,800 people were killed by the police and vigilante groups in the weeks after his inauguration in June.
Tags: Abu Sayyaf, ASEAN Summit in Laos, basic freedoms, bombing, Bureau of Customs, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Duterte, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, human rights, Mindanao, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Philippine National Police, Philippines, terrorism, Under a state of lawlessness, would allow the military to carry out some police operations