PNP, AFP ‘cannot run the country,’ senator says

Paterno Esmaquel II
PNP, AFP ‘cannot run the country,’ senator says
(UPDATED) This comes after President Rodrigo Duterte invited the AFP and PNP 'to run the country in accordance with my specifications' under a state of lawlessness

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Saturday, September 3, criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a “state of lawlessness” after an explosion in Davao City killed at least 14 people.

Duterte said of the state of lawlessness: “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.”

Hontiveros, however, said in a statement on Saturday: “Contrary to the President’s instructions, they cannot, in any way and in any legal and constitutional sense, run the country.”

Hontiveros explained that Duterte’s “calling out power” under the Constitution “should be limited in scope.”

The “calling out power” refers to Article VII, Section 18 of the Philippine Constitution, which states: “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.” (READ: What’s a ‘state of lawlessness’?)

Duterte’s “calling out power,” she added, “cannot give the military and police extra powers.” She also said the military and police “still cannot conduct arrests, searches and seizures without judicial warrants.”

Hontiveros said a declaration of a state of lawlessness “should be merely an act declaring a status or condition of public moment or interest.” (READ: Making sense of Duterte’s declaration of state of lawlessness)

She said the Administrative Code of the Philippines defines “proclamations” as “acts of the President fixing a date or declaring a status or condition of public moment or interest, upon the existence of which the operation of a specific law or regulation is made to depend.”

Quoting the Supreme Court, she said declarations like these “should be ‘harmless, without legal significance, and deemed not written.'”

‘Environment of fear, violence’

In her statement, the senator said: “The President might have intended this declaration to underscore the seriousness of the Davao attack. But he should be aware that his actions may very well contribute to an environment of fear and violence that will serve the interests of lawless elements. I worry that the President might play to the script of the perpetrators of the violence.”

“I urge the Duterte government to continue to operate within the bounds of the law and respect the civil liberties of the people. We cannot fight lawless elements by depriving our people their right to the rule of law,” she added. 

Hontiveros also said she grieves with the families of the victims of the Davao blast. “I fully condemn this act of violence and support the full extent of the law to identify and punish the perpetrators of this atrocious crime,” she said.

Like Hontiveros, Senator Franklin Drilon said he condemns the attack “in the strongest terms.”

Drilon, however, said Duterte “must be prudent” in declaring a state of lawlessness “because of its effect on our economy, investment and business climate, especially our tourism.”

‘Cowardly act of terrorism’

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano condemned the Davao blast and reiterated his support for the President’s campaign against crime.

“Stand behind our nation’s and our President’s fight against drugs and criminality, which includes the viciousness of the ASG….Stand strong as a people in the quest to restore law and order and to get rid of drugs and organized criminal syndicates within 6 months,” said Cayetano, Duterte’s running mate in the 2016 elections.

Senator Ralph Recto however said, the President “must explain and elaborate in writing his verbal statement placing the whole country under a state of lawlessness.”

He added, “A written order will prescribe the specifics and the limits of such declaration, and would result in the clearer enumeration of the activities permitted and prohibited, if any, during the period. It will also guide the authorities of the strict parameters to be followed in issuing and implementing orders.” Detailing the elements of the declaration will prevent confusion because orders are made “concise”.

In a statement, Senator Francis Pangilinan, said, “We urge our law enforcers to get to the bottom of this cowardly act of terrorism and ensure that those responsible are held to account.”

Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said “this act of terrorism is unacceptable.”

“We must bring to justice those responsible for the killing of innocent people and ensure that similar barbaric acts will not happen in the future,” he added.

Senator Miguel Zubiri said in another statement, “We should not allow despicable threats of wanton violence to disrupt our peaceful way of life. The lawless elements behind this hostility clearly want not only to kill and maim, but also to sow mayhem and panic, so the public should steer clear of unwanted rumors, especially through social media.”

For his part, Senator Joel Villanueva said: “We condemn this act of terrorism as cowardly and atrocious in this sorrowful time. It is important that we join our hands in solidarity with the Davaoenos and remain vigilant. Let us support the authorities as they investigate this dastardly act and ensure the security of the nation.”

Senator Richard Gordon said he commiserates with the people of Davao City, also the families of those killed and injured. He called on everyone to “support the President and our armed forces, police forces, and their families as well.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.