Business groups welcome Duterte declaration after bombing
THE COUNTRY’S biggest business groups are supporting President Duterte’s declaration of a nationwide “state of lawless violence,” as they downplayed fears raised by some quarters that this could lead to the imposition of martial law.
While this was seen as a move to help curb rising incidence of criminality, the groups also called on the administration to set clear parameters for the declaration.
Two former Presidents—Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada—as well as Mr. Duterte’s allies in Congress also are supporting the declaration.
The reactions were issued before the President signed the proclamation of a “state of national emergency on account of lawless violence.”
One of the President’s key allies in the Senate called on Malacañang to put on paper the declaration to ensure consistency in its enforcement within set parameters while it was in effect.
“Better to put it in writing so that the terms, the instructions, the directions can be referred to time and again and won’t change, because it is now in writing,” Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III told reporters.
“If it is not yet written, my advice, my suggestion is let’s put this in writing,” Pimentel said.
Perry Pe, president of the Management Association of the Philippines, said on Monday that the declaration, following the deadly bombing in Davao City on Friday, was meant to allow soldiers to back up the police in setting up checkpoints and increasing patrols.
“I think he has information which we don’t have. He campaigned on peace and order and that he will try to solve criminality in six months and he’s exactly doing that,” Pe said.
However, there should also be a formal issuance, whether in the form of an executive order or a proclamation, to set the scope of the declaration, he said.
Mr. Duterte placed the entire nation under a state of lawless violence hours after the blast, which left 14 dead and 68 wounded. The declaration is allowed under Article VII, Section 18 of the 1987 Constitution as part of the President’s powers as Commander in Chief.
In a text message, John D. Forbes, senior advisor at the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said business required security in order to operate.
“Our members have experienced police and military actions in many countries in the fight against global terrorism, including in the Philippines. We do not see civil rights being affected by the state of lawless violence, a constitutional authority of the President to use the Armed Forces. Hopefully, more acts of terrorism will be prevented so as to guarantee security for Filipinos,” Forbes said.
For his part, George T. Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the declaration was necessary in light of the threats.
“The protection of innocent lives takes priority so the tightening of (security) against a heinous group is a must,” he said.
Right thing to do
Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. saw no civil rights being curtailed by the declaration, which, he said, was just part of Mr. Duterte’s drive against terrorism and criminality.
Arroyo said the President’s decision to declare a state of lawlessness was the “right thing” to do in the face of threats from drug lords and the Abu Sayyaf, which earlier claimed responsibility for the Davao bombing.
“When I used to have those problems in Mindanao, I would ask [then Davao City] 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.
Based on her experience, Arroyo said the public need not fear the military and police abusing their powers under the declaration because they never did under her watch. Even if they did, she said the President would handle them better.
She used her constitutional powers to repel a security threat four times during her nine years in power. She declared a state of rebellion in Metro Manila in May 2001 to stop the mob of Estrada supporters from storming Malacañang and in July 2003 in response to the Oakwood mutiny launched by the Magdalo Group led by then Navy officer Antonio Trillanes IV.
She declared a state of emergency in February 2006 to nip in the bud a coup d’etat allegedly hatched by a military-communist-political alliance, and martial law in November and December 2009 to prevent lawlessness in Maguindanao Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City in the wake of the Ampatuan massacre.
In a statement, Estrada called on the Filipinos to unite behind Mr. Duterte in his quest to suppress terrorism and criminality.
Pimentel said the declaration was far from the feared martial law and would not affect civil liberties. “We are not in the extreme yet (the most extreme being martial law). It’s just actually a call or order from the President that the military should help the police in law enforcement,” he said.
High court wisdom
Sen. Francis Escudero said those worried about the President’s declaration may take the legal recourse and seek the Supreme Court’s wisdom for clarity on Mr. Duterte’s move.
There has yet to be jurisprudence on the declaration, including whether or not it could be issued just verbally, or if a presidential proclamation or administrative order would be necessary, Escudero said.
He assuaged concerns over the possibility of a creeping martial law, saying the status invoked by the President in the wake of the Davao City bombing would not suspend civil liberties.
Several senators took to the Senate floor on Monday to condemn the attack as they appealed for sobriety and unity among the public.
Senate blue ribbon
In a privilege speech, Sen. Richard Gordon condemned the “impunity and ignominy” of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group, which is believed to be behind the attack, as he said “we are all pained by the carnage.”
To allay concerns over the declaration of a state of lawless violence, Gordon said the blue ribbon committee, which he chairs, would be open to complaints about abuses that authorities might carry out while the nation is under the expanded law enforcement status.
In a statement, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the Abu Sayyaf had already claimed responsibility for the bombing even though one of its officials denied it.
“We are 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 anticrime campaign along with the offensive operations against the Abu Sayyaf, until the bandits are wiped out,” Alvarez said.
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