On April 2, Thursday, president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, warned left-wing activists in the country that the government is ready to shoot dead any person violating community lockdown orders. In a televised address to the nation, Duterte said, “My orders to the police and military … if there is trouble and there’s an occasion that they fight back and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead.”
The statement came hours after a protest by residents of Quezon City in Metro Manila was forcibly dispersed. 20 protesters were also subsequently arrested. The residents had come out for a demonstration against the delayed implementation of emergency relief measures.
Duterte’s administration has specifically accused left-wing activists, who have been demanding immediate aid for the poor and mass testing, of causing social unrest and disruptions.
The Philippines has so far recorded over 2,300 infections and 96 deaths due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Over the past few days, the number of cases has spiked with close to 100 cases being registered per day. The government imposed a nationwide lockdown in late March.
On March 23, the congress passed emergency measures to aid the government’s efforts in containing the outbreak. The measures include cash transfers and food aid to low-income families, in addition to sweeping powers for the president to nationalize private corporations.
However, even after a week of these relief measures being passed, people from across the country have been complaining about their slow and delayed implementation. Most of the protesters at Quezon City were reportedly from some of the poorest districts of Manila.
Grassroots activists, movements and celebrities have called on the Philippines government to provide adequate relief in a timely manner and to make mass testing available in the country, instead of threatening activists working on the ground. Duterte’s statement caused a major uproar on Filipino social media with hashtags like #OustDuterte and #TulongHindiKulong (Relief, Not Arrests) trending widely.