MANILA—Senator Leila De Lima on Sunday urged Filipinos to call out possible government abuses that may arise from enhanced security measures being set in place after the Davao City blast last September 2.
This was after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the entire country under a state of lawlessness or a state of lawless violence after the attacks which has Malacanang has denied was any way similar to Martial Law.
“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,” De Lima said in an e-mail sent to media.
“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,” she added.
De Lima meanwhile asked the Duterte administration to be clear on who the enemies of the State are, and calibrate its response in accordance with the threat to national security that they pose.
Echoing the sentiment of her fellow senators, De Lima said that she would like to see the official document on the President’s declaration of a state of lawlessness noting that she would not second guess his judgement.
“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 (AFP) as the military arm of the government, to help and assist its civilian counterpart, the Philippine National Police (PNP), in suppressing the lawless violence,” De Lima said.
De Lima also said that under such a declaration, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is given law enforcement tasks that usually pertain to the Philippine National Police as the civilian law enforcement agency of the government.
She further stressed that 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,” the former Justice Secretary said.
The neophyte senator pointed out that the summary executions related to the President’s anti-drug campaign have been a regular constitute of none other than lawless violence.
She said it would “be better” if the state of lawlessness can stop the street killings and terrorist attacks.
“All killings must stop, whether perpetrated by terrorist groups hiding in the jungle or unknown assailants roaming our streets,” De Lima said.
No jumping into conclusions
De Lima meanwhile urged the administration not to characterize the bomb attack in Davao City as an act of “narco-terrorism” or having been funded by the political opposition.
“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,” De Lima said.
“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,” she added.
The senator said that the attack should not be used recklessly as a way to “paint a picture of a conspiracy” against the State among drug lords, 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,” De Lima said.
“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,” she added.
De Lima meanwhile shut down reports quoting her as having said that the President’s declaration of a state of lawlessness was his strategy to justify a declaration of Martial Law.
She said that the statement “maliciously” attributed to her is part of the disinformation campaign designed to discredit her.