A police checkpoint outside Muntinlupa, Phillipines screens citizens for symptoms of COVID-19. Courtesy of the City Government of Muntinlupa

Violators of quarantine face brutality in the Philippines

President Robert Duterte of the Philippines ordered the police, military and local officers on April 1 to shoot violators: those who might cause ‘trouble’ during the imposition of the community quarantine amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Amnesty International.


“I will not hesitate,” Duterte said in a televised address. “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.” 


Duterte’s statement came after reports of citizens in Manilla protesting the lack of sufficient government food aid, according to France 24.


Residents of San Roque Village in Quezon City gathered along a major highway in Metro Manila on April 1, where relief items were supposed to be distributed. However, the distribution never happened, leading to a protest in the area. 


“I can’t agree that Duterte’s informal speech is acceptable at all,” said Kim Louise, the political chair for Portland State University Kaibigan, also known as the Filipino American Student Association. “With his position, he should know how to talk to all the people in the country.”  


Louise grew up in Portland. However, she said “[I am] close to my family back home, travel back frequently and understand the social culture very well.”


When the statement by Duterte came out, she said “I reached out to my family” and “I was concerned for their safety, since we usually don’t take statements like this lightly in the United States.”


In a response by Amnesty International, Amnesty Phillipine Section Director Butch Olano stated, “It is deeply alarming that President Duterte has extended a ‘shoot to kill’ policy to law enforcement agencies. Deadly, unchecked force should never be used in an emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”


Olano voiced concerns for Filipinos and residents of the Philippines because of Duterte’s response to the pandemic control in the country.


“The violent police response to calls for help is heartless and unjustifiable, especially while millions of Filipinos are prevented from earning a living,” Olano said. He also emphasized “the lives of those most at risk must be considered a priority, in the effort to minimize the threat of the virus.”


According to France 24, the Philippines has 96 coronavirus deaths and approximately 2,311 confirmed cases as of March 4. President Duterte addressed residents because he felt the situation was getting worse, as the infections are now being reported in the hundreds every day. 


Over 17,000 people have been arrested for violating pandemic rules such as lockdowns and curfew orders in various regions in the country, including in the capital city according to Amnesty International. Reports depicted inhuman punishments such as sitting for hours in the hot sun and being detained in dog cages.  


Activists criticized Duterte for being violent and stated his comments invited vigilantism in the country, as he also has a history of violence with his war on drugs: ordering police officers and mystery gunmen to kill thousands of people who were accused of selling and using drugs. Police said that Duterte’s anti-drug campaign has been lawful, as reported by France 24


The Philippines has not been the only country criticized for brutality against citizens during the pandemic. Kenya has also been named for its violent enforcement of a curfew according to Al Jazeera. Kenya currently has 197 confirmed cases. 


Emily Nyambura, a local coffee business owner in Mathare, Kenya was hit while trying to flee from a scene where police officers fired tear gas and shotguns in the air. Police also beat people with rubber canes and hoses. 


“There was no warning, they just started to beat people,” Nyambura said. “Everyone on the road—it didn’t matter your age, even grandparents. All were being beaten.” 


The government enforced a dusk till dawn curfew, so police descended on areas such as the streets of Mathare in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. This forced the people to be home at 7 p.m., which reduced working hours for those selling goods and outdoor markets.


Al Jazeera also reported President Uhuru Kenyatta apologized for the violence enforcement of a nationwide curfew in Kenya, stating “I want to apologise to all Kenyans for…some excesses that were conducted.” He also stated he wanted to assure Kenyans “if we work together, if we all understand that this problem needs all of us, and if we pull in the same direction, we will overcome.”