Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that citizens defying the country's strict lockdown orders amid the coronavirus pandemic could be shot and killed by police. Duterte made the threat in a televised address on April 1, during which he stressed the importance of adhering to the lockdown so as to not overwhelm the healthcare system.
"I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, as well as village officials, if there is any trouble, or occasions where there's violence and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead. Do not intimidate the government. Do not challenge the government. You will lose," he said in a mix of Filipino and English in the televised address, CBS News reports. "I will not hesitate my soldiers to shoot you. I will not hesitate to order the police to arrest and detain you. Now, if you are detained, I will leave it up to you to find food."
His remarks came just hours after media reports surfaced that residents in a poor area of Manila clashed with officials. Several residents, who had refused to return home, had reportedly been arrested as they protested a lack of supplies, arguing they had not received any food packs since the very start of the lockdown two weeks prior. According to Amnesty International UK, the activists were dispersed by officials with wooden sticks. In a statement, Amnesty International condemned Duterte’s remarks during the televised address.
"It is deeply alarming that President Duterte has extended a policy of shoot to kill, a devastating hallmark of his presidency, to law enforcement agencies in the community quarantine. Deadly, unchecked force should never be referred to as a method to respond to an emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement read in part. "We call on the President to immediately cease his dangerous incitement to violence against those who may be critical of the government during the COVID-19 pandemic. The local government must initiate a dialogue with residents and deliver much-needed relief, especially to the poorest communities."
Just a day after his comments, Filipino officials attempted to walk them back, insisting that Duterte had been using hyperbole when he threatened when he made the statement. They added that officers and military personnel understood that he was not sincerely ordering them to kill civilians. "Probably the president just overemphasized on implementing the law in this time of crisis," Philippine National Police Chief Archie Gamboa said, explaining that officers understood that Duterte was not actually instructing them to shoot civilians disobeying stay at home orders.