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Davao after the explosion
Image: Reuters/L. Daval Jr

Philippines declares 'state of lawlessness'

September 3, 2016

Filipino President Duterte declared a "state of lawlessness" after a deadly bomb blast in his hometown of Davao. Abu Sayyaf extremists claimed responsibility for the attack, but authorities are looking at other suspects.


Deadly blast in the Philippines

The blast hit a late-night market, killing 14 people near the university and a five-star hotel. It happened late on Friday night while the president was on a regular weekend visit to his hometown, and as Filipino forces were conducting an ongoing military offensive against Abu Sayyaf extremists in southern Sulu province. President Rodrigo Duterte was not near the scene of the blast when it happened.

"I must declare a state of lawless violence in this country, it's not martial law," Duterte told reporters in Davao on Saturday. "It's not martial law until it's a threat against the people and against the nation ... I have this duty to protect this country."

President Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a hard line against crimeImage: picture alliance/dpa/C. Ebrano

Abu Sayyaf responsible?

A spokesman for Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the blast. The group had threatened to launch an attack after the military said 30 of its fighters had been killed in the military offensive last week. The market was close to the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University and the Marco Polo hotel, which Duterte often visits and used for meetings during his national election campaign.

But Duterte said investigators were looking at other possible suspects, such as drug syndicates.

"These are extraordinary times, and I'm authorized to allow the security forces of this country to do searches," Duterte told reporters.

"We're trying to cope up with a crisis now," he added. "There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extrajudicial killings and there seems to be an environment of lawless violence."

Since his inauguration as president at the end of June, some 2,000 people have been killed in a nationwide crackdown on drug dealing.

Duterte's office said the declaration of a "state of lawlessness" "was rooted" in an article of the constitution that puts the president in charge of all armed forces, allowing him to "call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion."

Deadly blast in the Philippines

A president under threat

Duterte was mayor of Davao for years before becoming the Philippines president in June. The town is 980 kilometers (610 miles) south of Manila. There have been rumors, reported in local media, of a plot to assassinate the 71-year-old president.

Some commanders of Abu Sayyaf have pledged allegiance to the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) group. The militants have been cited as a terrorist organization in the US and the Philippines after they carried out a series of bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings.

Despite the attack, the president said he would go ahead with a trip to Brunei, Laos and Indonesia starting on Sunday. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is holding a summit in Laos next week, which will be attended by US President Barack Obama, among others.

jm/ss (Reuters, AP)

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