Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte issued a “shoot to kill” order to police officers on Wednesday for anyone they see violating Chinese coronavirus quarantine orders.
“Shoot them dead,” Duterte was quoted as saying in an impromptu address on national television on Wednesday night. Referring to people violating the Philippines’ strict lockdown orders meant to curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus, Duterte ordered the police, military, and district (barangay) officials to shoot dead any quarantine violators causing “trouble” in the streets.
I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, also the barangay [district officials], that if there is trouble or the situation arises that people fight and your lives are on the line, shoot them dead. Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I’ll send you to the grave.
Video later surfaced of Duterte’s remarks:
The president’s surprise national address on Wednesday night came hours after a group of Quezon City residents demanding government aid staged a rally on Wednesday morning. Quezon City is located northeast of Manila, the capital, an area currently on lockdown due to the Chinese coronavirus. Police dispersed the protesters for violating the enhanced community quarantine, arresting at least 21.
According to police, the leftist group Kadamay instigated the protesters and spread false information. Duterte accused the group of attempting to stir public sentiment against the government. However, some members of the group claimed they had taken to the streets due to hunger following a delay in the shipment of government aid during the lockdown.
In his speech on Wednesday night, Duterte addressed the Quezon City protest hours earlier.
“Do not intimidate government. Do not challenge government. You’ll surely lose,” the president said. Duterte then assured residents government assistance would eventually arrive, despite delays. “Just wait for the delivery even if it’s delayed, it will arrive and you will not go hungry. You will not die of hunger.”
Duterte placed the entire island of Luzon, where Quezon City and Manila are located, on “total lockdown” on March 16, prompting some to speculate at the time that the stricter measures might translate to martial law. However, in his statement announcing Luzon’s lockdown on March 16, President Duterte clarified the enhanced guidelines.
“Let me make myself clear, this is not martial law,” he said.
Since then, the Philippine government has implemented a severe crackdown on people violating quarantine mandates. Duterte has threatened criminal charges and prison for quarantine violators. On March 25, police arrested hundreds of quarantine violators in Cagayan Valley, Luzon.
Rappler journalist Aika Rey was the first to report Duterte’s “shoot to kill” orders to police officers in a series of tweets on Wednesday. Duterte has repeatedly ordered the arrest of the founder of Rappler, Maria Ressa. He accuses Ressa of allegedly running a media organization owned by non-Philippine citizens, a crime in the country. Ressa denies the charges and has accused Duterte of silencing dissident press.
On March 24, the Philippine Congress granted President Rodrigo Duterte special powers to combat the spread of the Chinese coronavirus, including the right to punish the spreading of fake news by up to two months in prison.
In a national address on Monday night, Duterte said medical workers who have contracted the Chinese coronavirus while treating patients and died were “lucky” to have died in service to the country. He added, “It would be an honor to die for your country, I assure you.”
The Philippines has experienced a recent surge in its number of Chinese coronavirus cases. On Tuesday, the country reported its largest daily increase in Chinese coronavirus deaths and infections. At press time on Wednesday, the Philippines had 2,311 infections and 96 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.