Duterte declares ‘state of lawlessness’ after Philippine blast kills 14

A loved one cries in front of a body bag after an explosion at a market in Davao CityPhilippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte declared on Saturday a “state of lawlessness” in the country after an explosion in a market killed 14 people in his home city of Davao while he was on a regular weekend visit there.

Duterte, who ran Davao for more than two decades as its crime-busting mayor, said the explosion late on Friday outside a high-end hotel intensified what was an “extraordinary time” in the Philippines, and police and military would redouble efforts to crush crime, drugs and insurgency.

“I must declare a state of lawless violence in this country, it’s not martial law,” Duterte told reporters on a Davao street at daybreak.

“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.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion, which police said killed 14 people and wounded 67. They did not reveal any findings from their initial investigation.

Duterte was not near the scene of the blast when it happened.

It comes as the uncompromising president wages war with just about anyone from drugs kingpins and street dealers to Islamist rebels and corrupt bureaucrats, scoring big points in opinion polls, but at a risk of making powerful enemies.

It was not immediately clear what a “state of lawlessness” entailed.

Duterte’s office said it “was rooted” in an article of the constitution that puts the president in charge of all armed forces and states that when necessary, he “may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion”.

Rumors have swirled in recent days of a plot to assassinate Duterte, 71, which he has shrugged off as part of his job. The talk has been intensified by a crackdown on drugs that has killed more than 2,000 people since his June 30 inauguration.

Asked on Thursday about death threats, his spokesman, Ernesto Abella said: “He eats that for breakfast, it’s not something new.”

The explosion went off at about 10.30 p.m. at a night market outside the Marco Polo hotel, a place Duterte visits often and used for meetings during his national election campaign. He typically spends his weekends in Davao. (Courtesy Reuters)