2 April 2019
Responding to orders from President Duterte to police, military officials and barangay officials to shoot ‘troublemakers’ protesting during community quarantine, reports of further arrests for breaches of quarantine and news that 21 residents of a village in Quezon City were arrested after demanding relief from the local government in light of the community quarantine, Philippine Section Director, Butch Olano, said:
“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 abusive methods used to punish those accused of breaching quarantine, and the vast number of mass arrests that have been carried out to date against mainly poor people, are further examples of the oppressive approach the government is taking against many who are struggling with basic needs
“This includes the violent police dispersal of residents of San Roque, Quezon City who were protesting the lack of relief support from the local government. The response of police violence to calls for help is heartless and unjustifiable, especially in light of a situation that has prevented millions of Filipinos from earning a living.
“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. We also urge the concerned agencies to investigate members of the police that resorted to disproportionate violence, release San Roque residents under arrest and conduct a probe into the broader incident. The lives of those most at risk must be considered a priority, in the effort to minimize the threat of the virus.”
On 1 April 2020, in a televised address President Duterte admonished those who may cause ‘trouble’ during the imposition of the community quarantine amid the COVID 19 pandemic. Referring to the political left, but also seemingly others who may protest or question government measures, he openly gave orders to the police, military and local officials to shoot them dead saying, “I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, also the barangay, 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.”
Based on latest information from the Philippine National Police, over 17,000 people have already been arrested for violations related to lockdown and curfew orders declared in various regions in the country, including in Metro Manila, in response to the pandemic. Given the elevated risks of transmission of COVID-19 in places of detention, using prison sentences to enforce quarantine restrictions in the name of safeguarding public health is counterproductive and as such disproportionate. Reports have also appeared of inhuman punishments those breaching quarantine have been made to endure, including sitting for hours in the hot sun or being detained in dog cages.
On 1 April 2020, residents of San Roque village in Quezon City gathered along a portion of EDSA – a major highway in Metro Manila – upon receiving news that relief items were to be distributed there. According to the group Save San Roque Alliance, when the distribution didn’t happen, the residents decided to stay in the area and stage a protest to demand relief from the Quezon City government. Members of the police supposedly asked the residents to leave the area, according to reports, and arrested them when they refused to do so.
The residents’ alliance, however, told Amnesty International that police resorted to violently dispersing the protestors and hit them with wooden sticks. According to one official of the group that the organization talked to, the victims included a man with his baby who was in the area to collect financial aid from his company whose office was also along EDSA. The baby was likewise hit in the violence that ensued, according to the official.
A total of 21 protesters were brought and detained at the headquarters of Quezon City police. Supporters and relatives were prevented from talking to them or delivering food for them following several hours of detention, the group’s official said.