There was an initial panic in the social media when President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of lawlessness. The reaction of the netizens caused the members of the Cabinet to scramble for explanation and the extent of its coverage.
Initially, the announcement said the declaration covered only the island of Mindanao where the bombing took place. Davao was first and then Cotabato was hit although not in the same scope and national impact as that of Davao.
Davao City is the homeland of Duterte and the attack at its vaunted peace and order environment was shattered. The perpetrators of the bombing planned their attack well for maximum impact that reached all over the world. The Davao government was quick to point out that the city remains peaceful.
That was a brave face but the fact remains that as long as Duterte is president and continues his style of governance, Davao will always be an open target. There is no such thing as total security or immunity from attack. Professional bombers that do not care about being killed in the process will always be able to penetrate the best security cordon.
The Abu Sayaff claimed responsibility and their intentions clear – a retaliation against Duterte's all-out war against them. The President pledged to erase them from the face of the earth and has deployed over two divisions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for this purpose.
But as Russia and the United States learned to their everlasting dismay a determined, small enemy that can tap modern technology can make the best armies in the world withdraw from combat. The US and Russia withdrew with their noses bleeding against small Afghanistan and Vietnam.
There are lots of speculations and fears about what this state of lawlessness is and how the rights of citizens will be affected. The government is also at a loss it seems. Cabinet members are making conflicting definitions as to the scope and procedures that must be followed by the police, the army and even private security forces.
This confusion creates apprehensions that the police, already inebriated with the momentum of the anti-illegal drugs campaign will step on and abuse civil and human rights.
The government has released guidelines but for a state of national emergency, at least that is the officially announced.
There is indeed a state of lawlessness in several parts of the country, particularly in Mindanao where the ASG, the MILF, the MNLF and the Maute group are sowing terror. But it is not so in the entire country. Negros might have thousands of drug users but certainly this island is peaceful.
With the NPA, the only armed group that retains the capability of an armed attack, there is none here that can be considered capable of a terrorist attack similar to that of Davao, Cotabato and other places there in Mindanao. In fact, the NPA still adheres to the method of the face to face confrontation no matter how deadly.
The terrorists follow the rule that the more casualties the better for their cause. Negros or any place on earth remains vulnerable but is there a strategic target here compared to the impact of a terrorist attack in Manila and hundreds of other targets waiting for a terrorist, like Makati the financial hub of this country?
There are fears that the declaration of the state of lawlessness, then national emergency will lead to martial law. The possibilities are indeed high considering the preludes to the martial law declaration in 1972 and the calibrating government actions. The government response creates the situation of violence begetting violence.
To push the timetable faster, Marcos and his cabal initiated more violence to justify the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and eventually of martial law. To be more dramatic, then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile staged his own ambush. He survived, of course, but the county's freedom was the casualty. It seems that at his old age, he is harvesting his folly and is derided when he could have been a man of great stature and a hero in the nation's pantheon.
There are talks that the ASG is seeking alliance with other terrorist groups. The AFP denied this but there is a truism that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” It cannot be discounted that other anti-Duterte groups would unite out of fear of this latest declaration of national emergency.*
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