Philippines: Some Fear Martial Law as Duterte Orders ‘Total Lockdown’ Around Manila

Philippine military prepare to setup a checkpoint in a main thoroughfare after president Duterte ordered a lockdown to contain the novel COVID-19 virus on March 15, 2020 in Meycauayan, north of Manila, Philippines. The Philippine government is placing some 12 million people in the capital Manila on lockdown as well …
Jes Aznar/Getty Images

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced an “enhanced” lockdown on Monday of the whole of Luzon, the island where Manila is located, in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus on the largest and most populous Philippine island.

The stricter and wider quarantine follows two days after a “general community quarantine” was imposed on the metro Manila area.

Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo announced the measures.

“I am placing the entire mainland of Luzon under quarantine until April 12, 2020, coinciding with the entire end of the Holy Week,” Panelo relayed Duterte as saying. Panelo explicitly called the expanded quarantine an “absolute lockdown or total lockdown” effective “immediately.”

Panelo added that “food and essential needs will be delivered in homes care of the respective local government units.” Under the expanded quarantine, “a strict home quarantine will be observed … movement will be limited to accessing basic needs” and there will be a “heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures.”

The official Presidential Communications Facebook page announced the “enhanced community quarantine” on Monday as well, echoing Panelo’s press statement:

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte placed the entire island of Luzon under Enhanced Community Quarantine to contain the spread of the [novel] coronavirus…The following guidelines shall be implemented, from 12:00AM of March 17, 2020 until 12:00 AM of April 13, 2020.

Failure to abide by the foregoing guidelines and measures will result to authorities taking the proper appropriate action/s, both criminal and administrative, in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.

Thousands of law enforcement officers, in addition to the army and coast guard, have been assigned to enforce Luzon’s enhanced quarantine, leading some Asian media outlets to speculate over whether the stricter lockdown translates to martial law.

In his statement Monday, President Duterte attempted to clarify the enhanced guidelines, saying, “Let me make myself clear, this is not martial law.” Metropolitan Manila police chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas has threatened to arrest people if they do not comply with the new restrictions. Jose Manuel Diokono, a prominent human rights lawyer, has commented on the matter, saying law enforcement could not arrest anyone for resisting emergency health restrictions.

At press time there were 187 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Philippines and 12 recorded deaths. The Philippines’ coronavirus mortality rate as of Monday – 8.57 percent – was far higher than the global average of between 3 and 4 percent. However, the country’s infection rate remains relatively low compared to the hardest-hit nations with thousands of cases, like China, Italy, and Iran. More areas outside Metro Manila have also declared quarantines.

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