MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima on Sunday, September 4, cautioned against lumping together various groups as being responsible for the deadly Davao City blast.
In a statement, De Lima, a former justice secretary, said groups perceived by the government as “threats to national security” should not be accused of conspiring against the Duterte administration.
“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,” De Lima said.
“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,” she added.
The Abu Sayyaf had claimed responsibility for the bombing at the Roxas Night Marketlate Friday, September 2, which left 14 people dead and more than 60 others injured. (IN PHOTOS: Blast in Davao City)
The Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed on Saturday, September 3, that an improvised explosive device (IED) caused the blast, but said it was still verifying who was behind the attack.
State of lawlessness
In her statement, De Lima also said she “will not second guess the judgment” of President Rodrigo Duterte in declaring a state of lawlessness in the entire country.
The President had assured the public that what he declared “is not martial law” and that there would be no suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. (READ: What’s a ‘state of lawlessness’?)
“He (Duterte) is in the best position to determine the propriety or not of issuing such a declaration,” said De Lima, adding that it would be “so much the better” if Duterte’s declaration would also put an end to the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country.
Earlier on Sunday, De Lima denied issuing a statement attributed to her, which said: “It could be a strategy of Duterte forces to provide reason to declare martial law. Davao is not the safest place after all.”
The senator said the statement was “maliciously attributed” to her as part of a “disinformation campaign.”
While acknowledging it is the President’s prerogative to declare a state of lawlessness, De Lima called on the public to “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.”
She said the Davao City bombing should not be “used as an excuse” to curtail people’s rights.
“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,” De Lima said.
“Our leaders must always be clear, to the people and, more importantly, to themselves – the enemy is terrorism, not democracy.”