'Shoot them dead': Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte tells police to send lockdown violators 'to their graves'

The mercurial president said in an address that he has asked the police and military to shoot the protesters dead.

                            'Shoot them dead':  Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte tells police to send lockdown violators 'to their graves'
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (Getty Images)

While almost every country in the world is taking steps to contain the spread of coronavirus by enforcing a lockdown, the leadership of the Philippines has decided on something radical to see that it is being upheld. The Asian archipelago has been badly hit by the pandemic which has affected over 3,000 people there and 136 lives have been lost. In a country of a population around 110 million people, half have been confined and millions left unemployed.

On Wednesday, April 1, the Philippines’ controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, told security forces that they should shoot dead anybody who is causing “trouble” in areas that have been locked down because of the pandemic that has affected nearly 1.1 million people globally. Almost 59,000 people died. The US has the most number of affected people (over 277,000) while Italy has seen the most number of deaths (14,600 plus).

Hours before Duterte presented his speech late on Wednesday, nearly two dozen people from a slum community in the national capital of Manila were arrested for protesting against the government on grounds of lack of food aid for the poor, according to AFP.

“My orders are to the police and military, also village officials, that if there is trouble or the situation arises that people fight and your lives are on the line, shoot them dead,” the mercurial president said.

“Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave,” Duterte added, saying the outbreak was worsening more than two weeks into the lockdown.

Duterte is known for his brutal drug crackdown

Duterte, a former mayor of the Philippine city of Davao who came to power in a landslide victory in 2016, has always been known for his foul-mouthed and iron-fisted administration. He has been particularly notorious for his deadly crackdown on the country’s drug problem which his critics claim has made the poor suffer more than the rich and powerful.

Last November, Duterte fired Vice -President Leni Robredo as the head of his deadly drug war and it came just days after he called her a “scatterbrain” who could not be trusted with state secrets. Robredo served in the post for less than three weeks after having promised that she would reform the anti-narcotics program amid charges that the police were killing thousands of drug suspects.

The 75-year-old president’s latest warnings against lockdown violators were condemned by rights groups who advised the government to provide much-needed relief instead of issuing threats of counter violence.

“It is deeply alarming that President Duterte has extended a policy of shoot-to-kill... Deadly, unchecked force should never be referred to as a method to respond to an emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” the AFP report cited Amnesty International Philippines saying in a statement.

Officials though did not immediately act on the president’s words. On Thursday, April 2, Philippine National Police Chief Archie Gamboa said the officers would not begin shooting troublemakers dead. “Probably the president just overemphasized on implementing the law in this time of crisis,” he said.