Duterte urged to walk back 'shoot them dead' remark

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
Duterte urged to walk back 'shoot them dead' remark
"Do not play hero at this time because you would abet or is it that word — to encourage people to violate the law. Now is the time to set an example to everybody," President Duterte said.

MANILA, Philippines — Rights group Amnesty International on Thursday said that President Rodrigo Duterte should immediately retract remarks that imply authorities are allowed to kill quarantine violators, saying these could lead to abuses during the quarantine across Luzon and in parts of the Visayas and Mindanao.

Duterte's supporters have said the the remarks were only directed towards leftists, whom the president has accused of causing trouble during the quarantine, which is now on its third week on Luzon.

"It is deeply alarming that President Duterte has extended a policy of shoot to kill, a devastating hallmark of his presidency, to law enforcement agencies in the community quarantine. Deadly, unchecked force should never be referred to as a method to respond to an emergency such as the COVID 19 pandemic," Amnesty's Philippine Section Director Butch Olano said in a Thursday release.

In a televised address Wednesday night, the president alluded to but did not outright mention the arrest of 20 protesters in Quezon City earlier in the day.

RELATED: 20 arrested at protest in Quezon City during quarantine

“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 (violators) dead. Naintindihan ninyo? Patay,” Duterte said.

(My orders to the police and military, as well as barangay officials, that if someone causes trouble and your lives are at risk, shoot them dead. Do you understand? Dead.)

Duterte has repeatedly said that police and military personnel can shoot people in self-defense even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Duterte warns groups disrupting quarantine | FULL TEXT: April 1 nation address of President Rodrigo Duterte on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic

Amnesty said that instead of threatening violence against citizens, the Philippine government should rechannel its efforts to providing relief to communities during the quarantine.

"We call on the president to immediately cease his dangerous incitement to violence against those who may be critical of the government during the COVID-19 pandemic. The local government must initiate a dialogue with residents and deliver much-needed relief, especially to the poorest communities," Olano said.

"The lives of those most at risk must be considered a priority, in the effort to minimize the threat of the virus."

The international watchdog said that concerned agencies should investigate police officers who “resorted to disproportionate violence” and conduct a probe into the Quezon City incident, as it called for the release of the apprehended Sitio San Roque residents.

"The abusive methods used to punish those accused of breaching quarantine, and the vast number of mass arrests that have been carried out to date against mainly poor people, are further examples of the oppressive approach the government is taking against many who are struggling with basic needs," Olano said.

"This includes the violent police dispersal of residents of San Roque, Quezon City who were protesting the lack of relief support from the local government. The response of police violence to calls for help is heartless and unjustifiable, especially in light of a situation that has prevented millions of Filipinos from earning a living."

‘Maximum tolerance’ but PNP to pursue raps

The Philippine National Police said that it would not follow the "shoot-to-kill" remark from the president.

“Of course not, probably the president just overemphasized on implementing the law in this time of crisis...We see the strong message and I think all the PNP personnel understood it,” Police Gen. Archie Gamboa, PNP chief, said in an interview with ANC.

"It has been the policy of the PNP that we always exercise maximum tolerance and within the bounds of the law."

However, the national police chief said that he has ordered the filing of charges against the arrested Quezon City residents.

“I wish they should not resort to these things. We’re mandated to enforce the law. People should understand that patience should be there,” Gamboa said in a mix of English and Filipino.

This runs counter to the Quezon City government's position on Wednesday not to press charges against the apprehended individuals.

“We will likely just hold a dialogue. Will you charge people in these times?” Weng Macatao, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte's chief of staff, told Philstar.com in a phone interview Wednesday.

Call for aid

Meanwhile human rights monitor Karapatan said that the Duterte administration should focus on delivering socio-economic aid to Filipinos during the COVID-19 pandemic instead of asserting its political dominance.

"Duterte suddenly decides to address the nation not to assure us of aid and medical services, but to reiterate his militarist policy and to send a death threat to Filipinos exercising our duty as stated in the Philippine Constitution," the rights group said in a statement.

During the enhanced community quarantine, mass gatherings, which includes protests, are prohibited.

It raised the alarm against the president’s words which they say could “translate to worse and more brutal forms of human rights violations, repression, and State violence in the days to come.”

"The other times he uttered the words ‘shoot them dead,’ he said them in the context of the ‘drug war’ and his counterinsurgency programs — and last night, he has commanded his bloodthirsty army and policemen to kill even more. People are already dying of sickness and hunger, and the fascist and inutile Duterte regime's answer is murder."

Grassroots organizations also rallied behind the affected Sitio San Roque community in Quezon City, calling for urgency and transparency in the government’s relief efforts.

RELATED: Calls mount for Duterte's report on emergency powers, COVID-19 efforts

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