Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the police and military to “shoot dead” those who would cause disturbances during the “Enhanced Community Quarantine” he imposed to stop coronavirus spread in the Philippines.
Duterte issued the warning after 20 protesters demanding food and other assistance were arrested in Quezon City for staging a rally without a permit amid the month-long Luzon lockdown.
“Don’t do anything foolish and go on a riot because I will order you detained and I will let you go after this COVID-19,” Duterte, speaking partly in Filipino, said in a taped speech.
“Don’t test the Filipino. Do not try to test it. You know, we are ready for you. Violence or shooting or killing, I will not hesitate to order my soldiers to shoot you. I will not hesitate to order the police to arrest and detain you,” he added.
Duterte, who is best known for his violent drug war that has claimed the lives of thousands of addicts and dealers, currently has emergency powers over the country, approved by congress last week.
The so-called “Enhanced Community Quarantine” has been placed over many parts of the country, with travel restrictions and curfews imposed to try to slow the spread of COVID-19.
A police dispersal of the protest resulted in the arrest of 14 men and six women.
After the protest, the urban poor group Kadamay, which has members in the community, said that the arrest of the residents showed a gross lack of social services and compassion to those greatly affected by the lockdown.
Duterte placed the entire Luzon under a month-long lockdown on March 16, forcing about half of the country’s population to observe home quarantine. His directive came just two days after a botched attempt to restrict the movement of people living and working in Metro Manila.
Last month, human rights groups have expressed concern after images of curfew violators locked in dog cages or being forced to sit in the midday sun circulated on social media.
Amnesty International condemned Duterte’s new statements. “The abusive methods used to punish those accused of breaching quarantine and the vast number of mass arrests that have been carried out to date, against mainly poor people, are further examples of the oppressive approach the government takes against those struggling with basic needs,” said the organisation’s local section director, Butch Olano.
The human rights NGO added that more than 17,000 people have already been arrested for violations of the lockdown and curfew in the Philippines, and that “reports have also appeared of inhumane punishments those breaching quarantine have been made to endure, including sitting for hours in the hot sun or being detained in dog cages.” (Source: INQUIRER.net)