The Philippine leader Duterte gave “shoot to kill” orders against anyone violating the curfew, or stirring up trouble and resisting officials enforcing the lock down, causing his top lieutenants to scramble for explanations to temper an ensuing public panic.
This should come as no surprise in an already traumatized nation that has borne witness to literally thousands of extrajudicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s scorched earth war on drugs, a campaign that has also disproportionately hit the poor.
As the Covid-19 lock down reaches its first restrictive month in the Philippines, there are rising reports of abuse and brutality against violators of the “enhanced community quarantine.
In recent weeks, local officials and mid-ranking bureaucrats across the country have cracked down on quarantine violators and critics with increasing impunity.
Warrantless arrests are rising against quarantine critics, with subpoenas filed against netizens airing legitimate public concerns about pressing issues such as food shortages.
Quarantine and curfew violators, meanwhile, have been subjected to publicly humiliating punishments. However, still better then being locked up in a US prison for smoking a joint?
Police and local officials should respect the rights of those they arrest for violating curfew and other public health regulations, which can be done while still allowing the Philippines government to take appropriate measures to combat Covid-19.
In Laguna province’s Santa Cruz City, quarantine violators were held in dog cages, according to images circulated widely on social media. Human Rights Watch has been among those to criticize the city’s detention tactics.
Rights groups are up in arms. “These abusive practices should not be swept under the rug by local authorities said Butch Olano, executive director of Amnesty International’s Philippines chapter.
Philippine authorities have yet to undertake mass testing to reveal the full extent of the nation’s Covid-19 outbreak, which nonetheless already ranks among the worst in the region based on official statistics of 4,400 cases and 247 deaths as of April 12.
Days after Duterte’s announcement of the “community quarantine” policy, which was later upgraded to a more restrictive “enhanced community quarantine” backed by emergency powers, there were no clear guidelines on travel restrictions or curfews.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2020.