From “lockdown” to “state of lawlessness” to “state of national emergency”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 Sept) – The verbal declaration early Saturday morning of, first a “lockdown,” then a “State of Lawlessness” nationwide following the explosion that killed 14 persons and injured 70 others at the Roxas night market in Davao City is now Proclamation No. 55, a two-page declaration of a “State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao” which President Rodrigo Duterte signed Sunday, a day before leaving for the ASEAN Summits in Vientiane, Laos.

The document was made public on Tuesday.

The Proclamation directs the Armed Forces of the Philippines (APF) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “undertake such measures as may be permitted by the Constitution and existing laws to suppress any and all forms of lawless violence in Mindanao and to prevent such lawless violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the Philippines, with due regard to the fundamental civil and political rights of our citizens.”

It cited Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution on the power of the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to call out the armed forces whenever it becomes necessary to prevent or suppress lawless violence.

ONE BLAST, 13 KILLED. In the aftermath of the explosion at the night market along Roxas Avenue at around 9:50 p.m. Friday, 02 September 2016: Ten dead. Three more expired at the hospital as of 2 a.m. Sixty three others were rushed to five hospitals for treatment of injuries, a number of them in critical condition. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
ONE BLAST, 14 KILLED. And 70 others injured in the aftermath of the explosion at the night market along Roxas Avenue at around 9:50 p.m. Friday, 02 September 2016: Ten died on the spot, four more expired at the hospital. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

The Proclamation listed six reasons behind the declaration, the September 2 night market blast in the city cited as the fourth “whereas.”

Proclamation 55 cited Mindanao’s “long and complex history of lawless violence perpetrated by private armies and local warlords, bandits and criminal syndicates, terrorist groups, and religious extremists;” and a spate of violent and lawless acts across many parts of Mindanao in recent months, “including abductions, hostage-takings and murder of innocent civilians, bombing of power transmission facilities, highway robberies and extortions, attacks on military outposts, assassinations (of) media people and mass jailbreaks;”

It noted that “valiant efforts” of the police and armed forces “to quell this armed lawlessness have been met with stiff resistance,” leading to several casualties on the part of government forces, the most recent of which was the death of 15 soldiers in Patikul, Sulu on August 30.

The September 2, 2016 bombing at the night market in Davao City was cited as the fourth reason.

It said the acts of violence cited “exhibit the audacity and propensity of these armed lawless groups to defy the rule of law, sow anarchy, and sabotage the government’s economic development and peace efforts;” and that based on government intelligence reports, “there exist credible threats of further terror attacks and other similar acts of violence by lawless elements in other parts of the country, including the metropolitan areas.”

Duterte declared the “state of lawlessness” early Saturday morning at the blast site, and told reporters it would be effective immediately. Proclamation 55 says it shall remain in force “until lifted or withdrawn by the President.”

Declaration planned before Davao blast

Duterte had planned to declare a “state of lawlessness” even before the September 2 bombing in Davao City, Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said in media interviews in Manila.

“Hindi ‘yan nag-trigger. (The Davao bombing did not trigger that). Actually, nasa planning stage na ‘yan (declaration). In fact, nagda-draft na nga kami ng proclamation eh,” GMA Online News quoted Panelo as telling its Super Radyo dzBB on September 4.

Panelo said he and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea had prepared separate drafts for a planned executive order on the state of lawlessness, which was supposed to be released on September 4 or 5.

Panelo cited four reasons behind Duterte’s planned declaration: the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, criminality, terrorism, and the offensive against the Abu Sayyaf Group.

The morning after the bombing, Panelo told CNN Philippines’ Pia Hontiveros that the reasons for the declaration of the state of lawlessness are anchored on the following grounds: “We have a drug menace, which is all over the country. Ninety eight (per cent of the) barangays have been infiltrated, and there have been extrajudicial killings related to drugs. Number two, criminality is still ongoing. Number 3, there is terrorism. And Number 4, the Abu Sayyaf problem. Because of all these, the President decided to apply the provisions of the Constitution, which states that when necessary, the President may call the armed forces to suppress and prevent lawless violence.”

From lockdown to SOL to SNE

At the blast site just before sunrise of September 3, Duterte initially ordered a “lockdown” that later within the same media interview became a declaration of a “state of lawlessness” nationwide and by the time he signed the declaration Sunday became a “state of national emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao.”

“These are extraordinary times, and I suppose that I’m authorized to allow the security forces… of our country to do searches,” he said of the lockdown, as he urged the people to be “liberal enough to understand us because we are trying to cope up with a crisis now.”

“There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extrajudicial killings..,” the President told reporters, adding, “there seems to be the environment of lawlessness, lawless violence, so I might just declare a state of lawless violence in this country. It’s not martial law but I am inviting now the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the military and the police to run the country in accordance with my specifications.”

He said the declaration is effective immediately “until there is threat against the people and against the nation” and later said, “until such time I say that it’s safe for everybody.”

He allayed fears about the declaration. He said any action taken by the security forces would be “in furtherance to stop terrorism. And I am including drugs because of the so many killings unfairly attributed to the police, na parang handiwork daw ng pulis. We do not do that.” He noted that people involved in illegal drugs “really fight it out.”

Duterte reiterated he has a duty to protect the country. “I have this duty to keep intact the integrity of our nation. So, I’m declaring now a state of lawlessness. It is not martial law. It has nothing to do with suspension .. of the writ of habeas corpus….”

What’s the difference?

In a statement, Vice President Leni Robredo said she respects the decision of the President to exercise his Constitutional power to call out the Armed Forces of the Philippines to assist in suppressing lawless violence “and we appreciate that the Proclamation makes clear that this does not suspend any part of the Constitution or impair any of our fundamental rights.”

She reiterated her call “that we bring to justice those responsible for the violence in Davao and at the same time, our bill of rights is followed and treated with utmost respect.”

The changes in nomenclature triggered confusion among the public. What’s the difference between a “State of Lawlessness” and a “State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao?”

“None legally speaking,” Dean Antonio La Vina told MindaNews. “The only effect of either declaration is that the President can call the armed forces to do what the police usually do. In the context of Abu Sayyaf, it just formalizes he existing situation which is the armed forces already are deployed Against the Abu Sayyaf.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said “essentially, same description of a particular state of the nation in a particular time but since the invocation is based on the ‘call out power’ of the President, the effect is only for the AFP to help the police in stopping lawless violence that is otherwise a primary police work.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)