Duterte declares state of lawlessness nationwide; gov’t clarifies it is not martial law

President Rodrigo Duterte declared the entire Philippines under a “state of lawlessness on Saturday morning following a night market bombing in Davao City that killed at least 14 people and injured 67 others.

Duterte, visiting the blast site at a night market in Roxas Avenue, told the media that his declaration means that soldiers and police will be authorized to conduct searches following the “orchestration of the national government.”

“I may invite uniformed personnel to run the country according to my specifications,” Duterte said.

“Any punitive action that will be taken by the security forces will be in a bid to stop terrorism,” he added.

But he distinguished his declaration from martial law, saying that a “state of lawlessness” does not involve imposing curfews and suspending the writ of habeas corpus.


Duterte said that the national policy will stay for as long as the country is threatened by terrorism and narcotics.

“I am including drugs because of the many killings unfairly attributed to the police,” he said.

“I have this duty to protect the country. I have this duty to keep intact the integrity of our nation,” Duterte was quoted by ABS-CBN News.

The last time the “state of lawless violence” was declared was in 2003, under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, after a Davao City bombing. However, its coverage was only limited to Davao City.

Duterte first put the Philippines under the “state of lawlessness” early Sunday morning, but Malacañang officials clarified that the policy only covered Mindanao. At a little past 10 am on Saturday, they changed their minds, saying that the President’s declaration is nationwide.


What is a “state of lawlessness”?

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella clarified that Duterte’s declaration of state of lawlessness is not a declaration of martial law.

Article VII Section 18 of the Constitution states that:

“The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.”

According to Abella, under this policy, the President is only limited to calling out the armed forces to suppress lawless violence, as reported by Manila Bulletin.

He further explained that the current ‘state of lawlessness’ is different from when the country is dealing with invasion or rebellion.

“Only if there is invasion or rebellion, and when public safety requires it, can he suspend the writ of habeas corpus or declare Martial law,” Abella said.


State of lawlessness” requires the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to do law enforcement operations that are normally done by the Philippine National Police (PNP) to stop lawless violence.

Abella calls for the Filipinos to stay alert and to pray for peace in the Philippines.

Professor Tony La Viña, Ateneo School of Government’s former dean, also explained the difference between the state of lawlessness and a declaration of Martial law.

“It certainly does not suspend the Bill of Rights, including the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, nor any laws. It really has no legal consequence except that it grounds the President’s decision to call out the military forces to support the police to suppress law and order. The calling out power is frequently and routinely used by Presidents,” La Viña said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza also offered an explanation of the state of lawlessness.

“State of lawlessness under the constitutional provision is separate and apart from the powers to declare martial law or suspend habeas corpus,” he said.

“It is to complement and supplement the capability of the PNP,” he added.

Sources: (,,


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