MANILA, Philippines - It’s not martial law, but the country is under an indefinite “state of national emergency on account of lawless violence.” President Duterte issued the proclamation following the deadly bombing at the Davao City night market that killed 15 people and wounded 70 others. Malacañang said yesterday the declaration does not need Congress’ concurrence, and assured the public that the suppression of lawlessness will be carried out with consideration to due process and respect for basic civil rights. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the President signed the one-and-one-fourth-page Proclamation Order before he flew to Laos late yesterday afternoon for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. The order is still unnumbered and must be initialed by Medialdea. It will be made public today. “It’s more about the fight against terrorism,” Medialdea said of the essence of the proclamation titled “Proclaiming a State of National Emergency on Account of Lawless Violence. “There is no limitation under our Constitution, this is not martial law which has a 60-day limitation,” the executive secretary said from Davao City in a phone-patch interview with reporters. Medialdea heads a caretaker committee for the duration of the President’s trip. From Laos, Duterte will fly to Indonesia for a two-day working visit. Medialdea said the President’s proclamation was prompted by the beheadings of Abu Sayyaf hostages and the Davao bombing.
The raid on the Marawi jail that freed members of the Maute terrorist group, which operating in Lanao del Sur that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was also cited among the reasons for the declaration. Kristian Ablan, assistant secretary for policy and legislative affairs, said the President does not need to notify Congress about his declaration. “The Constitution is clear that there’s only a report if a suspension of the writ is made or if there is a declaration of martial law, that is not the situation today,” Ablan said. Under Article 7, Section 18 of the Constitution, the President shall be the commander-in-chief of all the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. The Constitution also stipulates that “in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.” The President shall be mandated to report to Congress only if he intends to declare martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus in the process, chief legal adviser Salvador Panelo said in earlier interviews. Ablan said he is leaving it up to the legal team of the Office of the President to answer any questions regarding the legality of the proclamation. “Before flying off to Laos to attend the ASEAN summit, the President signed a proclamation declaring a state of lawless violence,” Ablan said in an interview in Malacañang.
“It commands the AFP and the PNP to undertake measures permitted by the Constitution and laws, to – number one, suppress all forms of lawless violence in Mindanao, and number two, to prevent lawless violence from escalating elsewhere with due regard to fundamental and civil political rights,” he said. “(It) shall remain in force until lifted or withdrawn by the President,” he stressed. He pointed out the coverage of the proclamation is nationwide. “But there are levels,” he emphasized. “There is suppression of lawless violence in Mindanao, and then there is just… (to) prevent lawless violence from escalating elsewhere, meaning to say it includes NCR, the Visayas and other parts,” he said. While the proclamation technically took effect yesterday, the President’s invoking his powers to intensify the war on terror following the Davao blast has been in effect since Saturday. He also squelched fears the proclamation can be a prelude to martial law. Despite greater police visibility, Ablan said the rights of the Filipino citizens under the Constitution remain protected. “There is no loss of civil or political liberties, so there is no suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, there is no declaration of martial law, it’s simply a call to the military and the police to help out,” he added. Rights assured There will be no violation of human rights in the enforcement of the President’s proclamation, said Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa. “Rest assured that the declaration of the President of state of lawlessness, rest assured that being your chief of the PNP we will implement the declaration of the President without violating human rights and the rule of law,” Dela Rosa said in a press briefing. Dela Rosa asked the public not to be afraid of the declaration, as it is not a prelude to martial law. He lamented that some people were making prejudgments. “The country is in pain. We are grieving, we are in pain and still these people are making insinuations there will be martial law. The people are becoming more afraid, we have to unite and fight this terror,” Dela Rosa said. The people, he added, should set aside divisiveness and politicking and unite against terrorism and criminality. “Let’s not think we’re being led to martial law. No, the President will not do that. Never,” he said.
Business undeterred For the business community, there is nothing wrong with the President’s declaration of a state of lawlessness. “It’s a devil if you do, devil if you don’t situation. If you don’t declare that emergency problem the people will blame him for not (doing so),” Management Association of the Philippines president Perry Pe said in an interview yesterday. “That’s in the Constitution and he has that prerogative and he has that power. He has some information which we don’t have. He campaigned on peace and order, that he will solve or try to solve criminality within six months, and he’s doing exactly that,” Pe added. Declaring a state of lawlessness, Pe said, is Duterte’s style of handling a situation like the Davao bomb attack Friday night. He also brushed aside concerns that a state of lawlessness is a prelude to martial law. “I don’t think so. He’s got too many Cabinet members whom I think are – and he himself – very knowledgeable about the legal parameters of what declarations such as that would constitute. I think he declared it first just to get the police out,” he said. After the Davao bombing, Pe said the business community has remained undeterred and is still bullish on prospects for Mindanao. “Mindanao will be shaken a bit but at large, I don’t think it will be a problem, businesswise. A little setback on tourism but by and large, it will be business as usual. We’ve got to give it to the people of Mindanao to make it business as usual because if they cower in fear you’re giving in to terrorist initiatives,” he said. “Businessmen like opportunity and they see opportunity whether in good times or in bad times. That is what makes a very good businessperson,” Pe added. He stressed the Davao incident alone should not affect the country’s attractiveness as an investment destination and that there are bigger problems confronting the country’s investment climate aside from peace and order. “First of all they cannot invest easily here because of the lack of ease of doing business, there’s the economic restrictions, then there’s infrastructure problems. So investors, if ever they don’t invest, it’s not because of one, not because of peace and order or whatever, it’s a confluence of events and we’ve got so much of those things right now,” he said. Matter of trust Former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also voiced support for Duterte’s declaration of a state of lawlessness, saying he is in the best position to crush any threat to the nation’s security. Arroyo, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, said the chamber is supportive of Duterte’s declaration made in the wake of the bombing of the Davao City night market. She said she believes government security forces will not commit abuses while the declaration is in effect. She recalled that she made similar declarations covering Mindanao when she was president and there were no reported violations of human rights. She said the threat from Abu Sayyaf as well as from drug syndicates “is national so it’s just right that we should trust the President.” “I did not experience their being abusive and I don’t think they will be abusive now. In any case, President Duterte is a much stronger leader than I am. So if I can handle them, he can handle them even better,” Arroyo told reporters. “You know, when I used to have those problems in Mindanao, I would ask (then) Mayor Duterte to handle them for me. And he handled them very well in his time for me. So I’m sure he’ll handle just as well, if not better, for himself,” she said. Arroyo maintained that when she was president, she relied on the judgment of security officials on whether such a declaration is needed. “We are also sure that the military will pursue the Abu Sayyaf until this band of murderers is neutralized. We are also confident that the government will continue to pursue the anti-illegal drug and anti-crime campaign along with the offensive operations against the Abu Sayyaf group, until the bandits are wiped out,” Arroyo said. She also extended her sympathy to the families of the victims. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Richmond Mercurio, Paolo Romero