Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gave authorities the green light to shoot dead protesters who attempt to riot or disrupt food distribution during a lockdown prompted by the Covid-19 outbreak.
More than 100 residents of a poor community in Quezon City in the capital region hit the streets on Wednesday asking for food from the government, but were dispersed by cops for allegedly violating quarantine rules, the Philippine Star reported. Local authorities said the protesters -- some of whom were arrested -- were wrongly told by an unidentified person that cash and food would be distributed, prompting them to leave their homes.
“My orders to the police, the military and the village officials: if there’s a commotion, if they fight back and your life becomes at risk, shoot them dead,” Duterte said in a televised address late Wednesday. He also warned leftist groups against causing food riots.
Cops won’t shoot people dead, and they understand that Duterte “just overemphasized” following the law during a crisis, police chief General Archie Gamboa told ABS-CBN News Channel on Thursday. Declaring martial law is not being discussed as an option to maintain order during the lockdown, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a separate briefing.
Duterte’s comments, which are similar to his orders in a drug war that has killed thousands, come as his government seeks to enforce a monthlong lockdown of Luzon, the Philippines’s main island. The country has 2,311 coronavirus cases, including 96 deaths, as of Wednesday.
Through a law that gave Duterte more powers, his government has allocated 200 billion pesos ($3.9 billion) for cash grants to 18 million poor families or at least $98 a month. The budget department has released half of the funds for assistance, it said on Thursday.