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Duterte proclaims national state of emergency

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DAVAO CITY  President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a proclamation declaring a "‘State of National Emergency on Account of Lawless Violence,” a departure from his announced proclamation of state of lawlessness earlier in Davao City. 


Duterte immediately got the backing of Congress on his proclamation.


In the House of Representatives, former President and now Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo lauded the President for his timely action to halt the spread of violence in the country.


Senators earlier allayed public fears over Duterte’s declaration of a state of lawlessness or a state of lawless violence in the aftermath of the Davao City bomb attack last Friday.


Senate President Aquilino Pimentel II and Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri expressed support for the President’s declaration, even though it has “sparked concerns” that the country is veering towards military rule.


"The Chief Executive himself denied that it was Martial Law and assured that it does not involve the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus,” Zubiri said in his privilege speech.


“We have nothing to be afraid of, much more doubt the intent of the President,” he said, emphasizing that the declaration does not entail the suspension of any rights under the Constitution or set the stage for Martial law.


Zubiri further said that the three branches of government are still functional.

In Davao City, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the President signed the one-page proclamation shortly before leaving for the ASEAN Summit in Laos.


Medialdea said that the spate of terror attacks like kidnappings, beheadings and finally the Davao night market bombing prodded the President to issue the proclamation.


He also stressed it is not martial law, no curfew is being imposed and there is no timeline for its implementation.


“The President will decide until he sees order and safety restored,” Medialdea said.


 Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary for Policy and Legislative Affairs Christian Ablan said  that among the salient points of the proclamation was the President’s order for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to undertake measures permitted by the Constitution and laws to suppress all forms of lawless violence in Mindanao.


The President also commanded the AFP and the PNP to prevent lawless violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country with due regard to fundamental and civil political rights.


“The state of national emergency shall remain in force until lifted or withdrawn by the President,” Ablan said.


“State of lawless violence merely calls out the military or the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to do law enforcement operations normally done only by the Philippine National Police (PNP),” Zubiri said.


“It is precisely for the purpose of suppressing lawless violence. It is to complement and supplement the capability of the PNP,” he added.


Zubiri cited how former president Joseph Estrada declared a state of lawlessness when he directed the AFP and PNP chiefs to coordinate in the deployment of Marines for a temporary period in Metro Manila, and the Supreme Court upheld it.


The senator also cited former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who declared lawlessness in 2003 after the bombing of the Sasa Wharf and airport in Davao City.


“It is my position that now is the best time to support the President to curtail lawlessness and suppress its spread throughout the nation,” Zubiri said.


Asked if there should be fears of abuses, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, like Zubiri, said there is “nothing to be worried about”.


“Martial Law is toothless under the Constitution. Because of our bad experience of Martial Law in 1970s when we passed the new Constitution, Martial Law has barely any effect,” Escudero said in an ambush interview.


“Even if Martial Law is declared, Congress is not abolished, in fact Congress has the power to either affirm or reverse any such declaration,” he added.


Escudero said that declaring a state of lawless violence is under the discretion of the President and could cover the entire country or it could be in pockets. However, the Supreme Court has the power to reverse it, he said.


“Only the courts can reverse or modify it. Anyone can go to Supreme Court to question the declaration. There is no jurisprudence that says it can be verbal, it needs presidential proclamation or an administrative order to implement it,” Escudero said.


He however noted the need to explain what it means exactly so it does not create public panic.


“There is no effect in civil liberties, no effect in rights under the bill of rights, no effect in normal activities of citizens except using soldiers in citizens to combat this,” he added. 


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