Press Release
September 3, 2016

We cannot fight lawless elements by depriving people their right
to rule of law

Statement of Senator Risa Hontiveros on the Davao blast and the President's declaration
of a State of Lawlessness

Together with the Filipino people, I grieve with the families of the victims of the attack in Davao Friday night. 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.

I welcome the swift response of President Duterte on this matter. I also laud him for finally admitting that the country is in a crisis involving unresolved cases of extrajudicial killings.

However, I would like to express my deep concerns regarding the President's declaration of a state of lawlessness all over the country. President Duterte's declaration of a "state of lawlessness" should be merely an act declaring a status or condition of public moment or interest, a declaration allowed under Section 4 Chapter 2, Book II of the Revised Administrative Code of 1987, which provides:

SEC. 4. Proclamations. 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, shall be promulgated in proclamations that shall have the force of an executive order.

The Supreme Court said that declarations of such nature should be "harmless, without legal significance, and deemed not written."

The "Calling Out Powers" of the President under Sec 18, Article VII should be limited in scope. The President shall only deploy the Armed Forces to suppress the identified acts of violence, which serve as factual basis for the Calling-Out Power.

It cannot give the military and the police extra powers. They still cannot conduct arrests, searches and seizures without judicial warrants. Contrary to the President's instructions, they cannot, in a anyway and in any legal and constitutional sense, run the country.

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.

Lastly, I urge my fellow Filipinos, especially our Mindanaoan sisters and brothers, to remain vigilant and be united in these trying times. We will not cower in fear.

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