MANILA, Philippines – Facing unrest from Filipinos running out of resources, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered police and soldiers to "shoot" residents causing "trouble" during the government's lockdown put in place to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Duterte delivered another round of violent threats in an impromptu televised address aired on Wednesday night, April 1, hours after some 21 Quezon City residents were arrested for demanding help and protesting without a permit.
Before issuing his response, Duterte called out the Left and urban poor group Kadamay, whom he accused of instigating the protest.
"Remember kayong mga Left: You are not the government…. Kaya huwag kayo mag-gawa ng kalokohan at mag-riot-riot diyan because I will order you detained at bibitawan ko kayo pagkatapos na wala na itong COVID," Duterte said, referring to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
(Remember, you leftists: You are not the government. Do not go around causing trouble and riots because I will order you detained until this COVID [outbreak ends].)
"I will not hesitate. My orders are sa pulis pati military, pati mga barangay na pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin, shoot them dead," he said.
"Naintindihan ninyo? Patay. Eh kaysa mag-gulo kayo diyan, eh 'di ilibing ko na kayo," he added.
(I will not hesitate. 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.)
What happened? Earlier on Wednesday, residents from Sitio San Roque, a community mostly populated by low-wage earners like factory and construction workers, called on the government for aid after weeks of being unable to earn money needed to purchase necessities.
So far, there are conflicting accounts as to whether all the arrested persons took part in the protest or were just looking for food. The Quezon City Police District, however, arrested some 21 people for protesting without a permit.
The arrests were widely condemned by labor groups, who pointed out the government should have been ready to help low-income earners cope amid the lockdown instead of using force.
What should hungry residents do in the meantime?
"Do not intimidate government. Do not challenge government. Matatalo kayo, sigurado (You'll surely lose)," the President said.
Duterte then told residents to just wait for government assistance, even if it may be delayed.
Under the recently signed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the government is supposed to distribute P200 billion worth of cash aid among some 18 million poor households. But the aid cannot be released yet because agencies are still building a "consolidated database" of beneficiaries.
"Magtiis na lang siguro kayo ng delayed delivery pero dadating 'yan at hindi ka magugutom. Hindi ka mamamatay sa gutom," Duterte said.
(Just wait for the delivery even if it's delayed, it will arrive and you will not go hungry. You will not die of hunger.)
During his speech, Duterte also warned against harming health workers who face discrimination in communities over fears they have the coronavirus.
Days earlier, the President drew wide criticism for romanticizing health workers' deaths, saying they were "lucky to die" for the country.
Why this matters: The lack of preparation for the monthlong lockdown – implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus – is taking its toll on thousands of displaced workers who survive on daily wages.
While strict quarantine measures are needed to quell the virus' spread, many have pointed out the lockdown can only be effective if the government is swift in delivering essential social relief for disenfranchised Filipinos.
As of Wednesday, the Philippines has 2,311 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 96 deaths and 50 recoveries. – Rappler.com