The Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the country’s security forces to “shoot dead” individuals who defy restrictions in areas under lockdown over the coronavirus epidemic.
Duterte ordered Philippine police and military late on Wednesday to shoot dead anyone “who creates trouble” during a month-long lockdown enforced in the capital, Manila, as well as several other regions to halt the spread of the flu-like disease.
“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 Philippine president said.
“Instead of causing trouble, I’ll send you to the grave,” he added, stressing that the outbreak was getting worse more than two weeks into the lockdown.
The Philippines recorded 227 new coronavirus cases and eight more deaths on Wednesday, according to the country’s Health Ministry.
The latest figures brought the total number of infections and fatalities in the Philippines to 2,311 and 96, respectively.
The quarantine, which affects more than half of the country of 105 million, has shuttered businesses and brought nearly all social, religious, and business activities to a halt.
Duterte’s warning came after police arrested 21 residents of a slum in Manila’s Quezon City for staging an “unauthorized protest” to demand food aid and other relief supplies at a time when the country struggles to contain the virus spread.
The arrested individuals, among them six women, had ignored an appeal by the police to end the protest and return home.
“Let this be a warning to all. Follow the government at this time because it is critical that we have order,” Duterte said. “Do not go around causing trouble and riots because I will order you detained until this COVID-19 [outbreak ends].”
The Filipino president’s comments drew immediate rebuke from rights groups, who called on the government in Manila to provide relief supplies instead of issuing threats of violence.