Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday warned he would order the police and the military to shoot dead anyone ‘who creates trouble’ amid a month-long lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
‘Let this be a warning to all - follow the government at this time because it is critical that we have order,’ he said in a late-night televised national address. ‘And do not harm the health workers, the doctors ... because that is a serious crime.’ ‘My orders to the police and the military, if anyone creates trouble, and their lives are in danger: shoot them dead,’ he added.
Duterte issued the warning after residents of a slum area in Manila's Quezon City staged a protest along a highway near their shantyhouses, claiming they had not received any food packs and other relief supplies since the lockdown began more than two weeks ago.
Village security officers and police urged the residents to go back to their homes, but they refused, a police report said.
Police broke up the protest and arrested 20 people, the report added.
Jocy Lopez, 47, who led the group of residents, said they were forced to stage the protest because their families were going hungry amid the community quarantine imposed to halt the spread of the new coronavirus in the country.
‘We are here to call for help because of hunger,’ she said before she was arrested. ‘We have not been given food, rice, groceries or cash. We have no work. Who do we turn to?’ Activist groups condemned the arrest and urged the government to fast-track the release of cash assistance promised under a 200-billion-peso (4-billion-dollar) social protection programme to help poor families and those who lost work amid the lockdown.
‘Using excessive force and detention will not quell the empty stomachs of Filipinos who up to this day remain denied of the promised ... cash aid for the poor,’ warned women's rights group Gabriela.
Duterte called for patience, vowing that everyone will get food and cash assistance.
‘It is getting worse,’ he said. ‘So once again I'm telling you the seriousness of the problem and that you must listen.’ ‘You may have to wait for the delayed delivery, but it will come and you will not be hungry. You will not starve to death.’
The Department of Health on Wednesday reported 227 new cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines, bringing the total to 2,311. Eight additional patients died from the disease, pushing the death toll to 96, while 50 people have recovered.
Duterte also told police to protect health workers amid reports that some have been attacked or discriminated against amid fears they are infected with the virus.
Two nurses in the Philippines had chlorine thrown at them while on their way home from their shifts in hospitals.
‘To the police, pour whatever chemicals [these attackers} throw at the doctors and nurses. Or better yet, have them drink [the chemicals} so the problem is solved,’ he said.
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