Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a "state of lawlessness" after militants claimed responsibility for a powerful blast that killed at least 14 people and wounded over 60 in Davao city, his southern stronghold .
"There is a crisis in this country involving drugs, extrajudicial killings, and there seems to be an environment of lawlessness, lawless violence," he said yesterday.
The country is facing "extraordinary times" that require strong measures, he added.
Mr Duterte branded Friday's explosion at a crowded night market, near a hotel he frequents, an act of terrorism, as he gave the military extra powers to man more checkpoints and conduct searches.
A curfew may also be enforced "in places where it is necessary", said the President's chief counsel, Mr Sal Panelo.
Number killed in the attack
Approximate number of in jured
Said Mr Duterte: "I have this duty to protect this country. So, I am declaring now a state of lawlessness… It's not martial law, but I am inviting now the... military and the police to run the country according to my specifications… They can do what they really need to do until such time that I can say it is safe."
A "state of lawless violence" has been declared before, in 2003, by then President Gloria Arroyo in response to two blasts, one outside an airport and another at a wharf, in Davao that left 38 people dead.
But that was limited to the city. Mr Panelo said Mr Duterte's declaration covers the entire Philippines.
Mr Duterte was Davao mayor for nearly two decades before becoming President in July.
Director-General Ronald de la Rosa, the police chief, said he received reports that mortar fragments were found at the blast site, but insisted it was too early to form any conclusion.
Security officials in Davao said they were looking for four "persons of interest".
There were reports that the blast could have been a liquefied petroleum gas explosion, but witnesses said it was too powerful for that.
"There was a shock wave. A lot of people were really crying. You can hear the screams. I saw a girl's leg bloodied, probably shattered," said Mr Donn Catre, who was spending the evening at the night market when the explosion took place.
Early yesterday, the small but violent Abu Sayyaf group of militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Muammar Askali, also known as "Abu Ramie", the group's spokesman, told the TV network ABS-CBN it was a "call for unity to all mujahideen in the country".
But hours later, he clarified in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer that an allied group - the Daulat Ul Islamiya - carried out the attack.
Mr Duterte last week ordered a major assault against the Abu Sayyaf in its stronghold of Jolo island, about 900km from Davao.
Fifteen soldiers died in clashes with the Abu Sayyaf last Monday.
Mr Duterte has cancelled a working visit to Brunei set for yesterday till tomorrow, the first leg of his planned three-country swing through South-east Asia, his first foreign trip as President.
But he will be joining other state leaders for an Asean summit and other meetings in Vientiane, Laos on Tuesday to Thursday. He will then visit Indonesia on Thursday and Friday, Communications Minister Martin Andanar said.