Cayetano defends Duterte’s shoot to kill order: ‘I don’t really think that’s literal’

Mara Cepeda
Cayetano defends Duterte’s shoot to kill order: ‘I don’t really think that’s literal’
'I always take the President seriously but not always literally,' says Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial shoot to kill order

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the public should not take literally President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to the police and military to shoot residents causing unrest while parts of the country remain under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“So I don’t really think that literal ‘yong order ng Pangulo na ‘pag may nag-violate, barilin mo. Eh kaya nga tayo may enhanced quarantine to protect people eh,” Cayetano, a loyal ally of the President, said in a virtual press conference on Friday, April 3.

(So I don’t really think that the order of the President is literal, that a violator should be shot. Precisely why we have an enhanced quarantine now is to protect people.)

The Taguig City-Pateros congressman then recalled his days as foreign affairs chief, when he said he would have to explain to foreign reporters why they should not be taking at face value Duterte’s violent threats to his critics.

“As usual po, I always look at the intent. As I’ve said in foreign media na hindi naiintindihan minsan ‘yong ating Pangulo, ang sabi ko sa kanila, I always take the President seriously but not always literally ‘no?” the Speaker said. 

(As usual, I always look at the intent. As I’ve told foreign media who do not understand our President sometimes, I told them, I always take the President seriously but not always literally, okay?)

Echoing the words of Duterte himself, Cayetano said the “context” of the President’s “shoot to kill” order was the urban poor group Kadamay instigating the recent protest of Sitio San Roque residents, who were demanding help from the government.

The Speaker said this can “really spark civil disobedience” because Filipinos are already getting hungry and are scared due to the COVID-19 crsis.

“But of course, ‘yong shoot to kill, ang ibig sabihin n’on, when he was talking about it is that if they resist or mag-ra-riot sila or if sugurin nila ‘yong pulis, ‘di ba? Kasi ang general order naman ng pulis is maximum tolerance. Pero ‘pag tumigas ang ulo at hindi talaga sumunod sa quarantine ay aarestuhin, ‘di ba?” Cayetano said. 

(But of course, what the shoot to kill order means when he was talking about it is that if it would apply if they resist or riot or go after the police, right? Because the order to the police is to exercise maximum tolerance. But when the people become hard-headed and really do not follow the quarantine, then that’s when they will be arrested, right?)

That Cayetano is defending the President’s controversial “shoot to kill” order is not surprising. 

The Speaker has been doing this since the 2016 presidential campaign, when he was the running mate of then-Davao City mayor Duterte. While Cayetano lost the vice presidential race, Duterte later appointed him Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary. Cayetano then resigned from his DFA post to run for Congress in the 2019 elections, where he emerged victorious in his family’s bailiwick, Taguig City.

DSWD urged to streamline cash aid distribution

In the same press conference, Cayetano said the House’s oversight panel has written a letter to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) suggesting ways how it could further streamline its processes to provide cash aid to some 18 million poor Filipinos affected by the lockdown. 

The Speaker said the DSWD’s current process for its Social Amelioration Program was simply too complicated that it would take several days for indigent families to receive the P5,000 to P8,000 promised to them.

“Sa counter-proposal natin, 4 lang po ang magiging step. First step, DSWD enters [into a] MOA (memorandum of agreement) with [the] LGU (local government unit). Second step, LGU team identifies and validates the beneficiary. Third step, LGU distributes payout, and 4th, LGU liquidates,” Cayetano said. 

(In our counter-proposal, there would only be 4 steps. First step is DSWD enters into a MOA with the LGU. Second step is the LGU team identifies and validates the beneficiary. Third step, the LGU distributes the payout, and 4th, the LGU liquidates.) 

The DSWD already said on Thursday, April 2, that the P100 billion in cash aid is ready for distribution. The said amount is equal to half of the emergency subsidy for poor families, who will receive the cash aid for two months. 

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the DSWD will be spearheading the distribution of the cash aid, assisted by LGUs. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.