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Philippines in 'state of lawless violence'

dpadpa 2/09/2016

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a "state of lawless violence" which he says will allow him to ask the military to conduct specific operations.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a "state of lawlessness" in the country after 14 people were killed in a bomb blast at a night market in his home city.

Duterte's declaration came as the Abu Sayyaf militant group claimed responsibility for the late Friday attack that also injured 71 people, with the extremists warning of more attacks in the coming days.

The Philippine leader stressed that he had not declared martial law, but that the move would allow him to ask the military to conduct operations according to his instructions.

"These are extraordinary times," he told reporters during a visit before dawn at the site of the bomb attack in the southern city of Davao, where he used to be the mayor. "I can order soldiers to search premises."

Placing the country under a state of lawlessness empowers the president to call on the military to help the police in anti-crime operations.

In a statement, the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson pointed out that the declaration has "limitations" as the president can only order the armed forces to quell violence.

Martial law can only be declared in certain situations, the statement continued. "Only if there is an invasion or a rebellion, and when public safety is at risk, can he (the president) suspend the writ of habeas corpus or declare martial law."

The statement called on Philippine citizens to be vigilant against "those who wish to create chaos".

Alan Aguilar, an eyewitness who was eating dinner at the night market, said the explosion was deafening and everybody took cover. Following the blast he heard cries of help and saw smoke billowing from the area of the attack.

"It was frightening," he said. "There were some people who were not injured but who were walking around aimlessly, as if they were disoriented and didn't know where to go."

Security forces in Metropolitan Manila have been placed on highest alert amid concerns of more attacks. Police forces have been beefed up in airports and other public places and institutions.

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