Press Release
September 4, 2016


I strongly condemn the bombing at the Davao City night market. This is clearly the act of terrorists, individuals without conscience. Violence is the only language that they know, especially the kind that victimizes innocent civilians and non-combatants. This is not only a terrorist act, but a violation of international humanitarian law as a war crime consisting of an attack on a civilian population, specifically if perpetrated by a terrorist rebel group like the Abu Sayyaf. Those responsible for this bombing are not only terrorists, they are also war criminals.

I express my personal grief and sadness to the families, relatives and friends of those who died and who were injured. You are all in our prayers. The whole nation grieves with you today and in the days to come.

I still have to see the official document on the President's declaration of the existence of a state of lawless violence. What is clear is that under such a declaration, the President may call out the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the military arm of the government, to help and assist its civilian counterpart, the Philippine National Police, in suppressing the lawless violence. Therefore, under such a declaration, the AFP is given law enforcement tasks that usually pertain to the PNP as the civilian law enforcement agency of the government. It does not give either agency additional powers beyond what is allowed under the Constitution. It is merely a force augmentation of the PNP in order to help it respond to the lawless violence.

I will not second guess the judgment of the President in declaring the existence of a state of lawless violence, when he himself cites the example of the extra-judicial killings of the past two months and now the terrorist attack in Davao. He is in the best position to determine the propriety or not of issuing such a declaration. Indeed, the summary executions that have been a regular daily fare in the past two months, at the rate of 36 per day, constitute none other than lawless violence. If this declaration can stop the street killings, together with the terrorist attacks, then so much the better. All killings must stop, whether perpetrated by terrorist groups hiding in the jungle or unknown assailants roaming our streets.

While it is for the President to decide what powers are needed to respond to the current situation, it is also for the people to be vigilant that the government response to the crisis does not result in the restriction of their civil liberties and political rights. While it is the role of the government to protect the people, it is the right of the people to make sure and remind the government of the limits of its power, and call out any abuse that may result from the enhanced security measures put in place by the government. The government must therefore be clear on who the enemies of the State are, and calibrate its response in accordance with the threat to national security that they represent.

It does not therefore help using this incident to lump together all groups that are perceived by the government as threats to national security as being responsible for the bombing. It is more than inappropriate to characterize in the same breath the extremist terrorist attack in Davao City also as an act of "narco-terrorism", or worse, as having been funded by the political opposition -- the first as advanced by the PNP Chief, and the second by a well-known ideologue of the Duterte Administration - without any verification or validation. This is not the time to use a terrorist attack of a rebel extremist group to loosely and recklessly paint a picture of a conspiracy against the State among drug lords, the terrorists, and the legitimate political opposition. Incidents such as the Davao City bombing should never be used as an excuse to crack down on civil liberties, political rights, and legitimate dissent. We fervently hope that this tendency among some prominent officials and close advisers of the President is an isolated perspective, and does not represent a consensus in Malacanang to use each and every terrorist attack on our people, whether on the civilian population or the military and our security forces, as an opportunity to wag the dog.

Otherwise, speculations that there is more here than meets the eye will continue to abound. Prominent Malacanang officials and close advisers of the President must be clear that the national security threat is terrorism, and not democracy and free speech. In this sense, we must remain vigilant against terrorism and terrorist attacks, as well as against threats and attacks on our civil liberties and our democracy.

As the reality of this dangerous tendency holds in the different parts of the world where terrorism has taken root and struck, of the State turning against its own citizens in the fight against terrorism, our leaders must always be clear, to the people and, more importantly, to themselves -- the enemy is terrorism, not democracy.

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