Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that those who violate quarantines amid the Covid-19 crisis could wind up dead, ordering security forces to fire upon violent ‘troublemakers’ as the country battles the outbreak.
The stark warning came during an unscheduled televised address on Wednesday night, in which Duterte told the police and military to adopt a gloves-off approach for violators of lockdown measures on Luzon – the country’s largest and most populous island – imposed last month to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
“I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and the military, as well as the [districts], that if there is trouble or the situation arises that people fight and your lives are on the line, shoot them dead,” the president said.
Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I’ll send you to the grave.
Duterte gave his address just hours after 21 residents in Quezon City – most of them low-income factory and construction laborers, unable to work during the lockdown – were arrested for protesting without a permit. The arrests were condemned by labor group Solidarity of Filipino Workers (BMP), which castigated the government for targeting impoverished people asking for assistance during the crisis.
The president asked those in need of aid to be patient, urging them to “just wait for the delivery even if it’s delayed, it will arrive and you will not go hungry,” but warned residents “do not intimidate the government. Do not challenge the government. You will surely lose.”
The sweeping lockdown order has placed Luzon’s entire population of 57 million into “enhanced community quarantine,” limiting movement around the island to buying food, medicine and other essential items, and shutting down all but vital industries.
The Philippines has confirmed over 2,300 cases of Covid-19 and counted 96 fatalities. The World Health Organization, however, has observed that due to the low number of tests administered there, there are likely a greater number of infections, but said it expected screenings to “increase substantially in the coming days.”