Conflicting statements issued on coverage of state of lawlessness

Wilson Sy - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Confusion followed the declaration by President Duterte of a state of lawlessness yesterday as Cabinet officials issued conflicting statements on the coverage of the order.

The declaration came after the explosion at a night market in Davao City that killed 15 persons.

Fears of martial rule also flooded social media after netizens associated the declaration of a state of lawlessness to martial law.

Initial reports said the declaration only covers Mindanao, with the Philippine Information Agency attributing the source of the information to presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.

Abella later issued a statement saying the declaration will include “Mindanao and the rest of the nation” due to heightened security issues.

The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) initially posted on its official Twitter account, @PresidentialCom, that only Mindanao is covered by the declaration, but deleted the tweet following the clarification of Abella.

The PCO posted a new tweet saying the state of lawlessness covers the entire country.

Reports also cited information from presidential assistant Bong Go, who supposedly said that the declaration was only limited to Mindanao.

He later said that the declaration covers the entire country.

Go said the official information should come from the office of Abella.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar and presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo also announced that the coverage of the declaration was nationwide.

However, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was quoted to have said that the declaration was only limited to Mindanao.

Panelo reiterated that the state of lawlessness covers the whole country, saying there was miscommunication with the defense chief.

With the conflicting information and numerous talking heads, netizens urged the Palace communications group to coordinate and appoint a designated spokesperson.

“Hindi po pwedeng sabay-sabay nagsasalita. Pwede mag shifting para di mapagod at ma-windang. Isang kumpas lang,” journalist Inday Espina-Varona tweeted.

“To avoid confusion, can’t media stick with the official spokesperson if there are conflicting statements on state of lawlessness?” blogger Noemi Dado said.

Blogger Jane Uymatiao suggested that Duterte designate one person to talk about the crisis to avoid confusion.

“There should only be one point person during crises. No other person should grant media interviews,” she said. “Everyone wants to talk to media. Time to consolidate, agree on messaging and designate only one person to face media.”

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